Richard M. Nixon, the son of a grocer, was born on 9th January, 1913. His father owned a small lemon farm in Yorba Linda, California. A good student, Nixon graduated from Whittier College in 1934.
After obtaining a degree at Duke University Law School, Nixon returned to Whittier where he joined the law firm of Kroop & Bewley. In 1937 he moved to Washington where he served in the Office of Price Administration.
Nixon joined the United States Navy in August, 1942. Given the rank of lieutenant he was sent to the Pacific as an operations officer with the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command. He left the Navy in January 1946 when the Republican Party in Whittier asked him to run for Congress. During the campaign he attacked the New Deal and accused his Democratic Party opponent as an enemy of free enterprise.
Elected to the House of Representative, Nixon was invited to join the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) where he became involved in its campaign against subversion. In 1947 the HUAC began its investigation into the entertainment industry and was responsible for the blacklisting of 320 artists.
J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation provided Nixon with information on members of the Communist Party. Nixon soon emerged as the most skillful members of the House of Un-American Activities Committee and played an important role in the interrogation of Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers. This led to the successful prosecution of Alger Hiss, Harry Gold, David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg.
These cases brought Nixon to the attention of the public and in 1952 Dwight Eisenhower chose him as his running mate in the presidential election of 1952. During the campaign Nixon was accused of receiving $18,235 from private citizens. In a television speech he accounted for the money and Eisenhower allowed him to remain on the team.
Adlai Stevenson was chosen as the Democratic Party candidate for the 1952 presidential election. It was one of the dirtiest in history with Nixon, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, leading the attack on Stevenson. Speaking in Indiana, Nixon described Stevenson as a man with a "PhD from Dean Acheson's cowardly college of Communist containment." In an attempt to link Stevenson with the Soviet spy ring he added: "Somebody had to testify for Alger Hiss, but you don't have to elect him President of the United States."
In October, 1953, Joseph McCarthy began investigating communist infiltration into the military. Attempts were made by McCarthy to discredit Robert Stevens, the Secretary of the Army. The president, Dwight Eisenhower, was furious and now realised that it was time to bring an end to McCarthy's activities. Eisenhower instructed Nixon to attack McCarthy. On 4th March, 1954, Nixon made a speech where, although not mentioning McCarthy, made it clear who he was talking about: "Men who have in the past done effective work exposing Communists in this country have, by reckless talk and questionable methods, made themselves the issue rather than the cause they believe in so deeply."
After the Republican victory, Nixon became the government's chief spokesman. He travelled widely and he impressed world leaders with his knowledge of foreign affairs. This included a meeting with Nikita Khrushchev in the Soviet Union.
In 1960 Nixon won the Republican presidential nomination. After his eight years as Eisenhower's deputy, Nixon was expected to win. However, the Democratic candidate, John F. Kennedy, ran a successful campaign and won by just 100,000 votes out of the 68 million cast. Nixon became a lawyer in Los Angeles, and after losing the race for governor of California in 1962, claimed he was retiring from politics.
Nixon changed his mind and in 1968 he won his party's presidential nomination. Nixon picked Spiro T. Agnew as his running mate. This time Nixon won and in his inaugural address on 20th January, 1969, he promised to bring the nation together again.
In 1969 Nixon appointed Henry Kissinger as his adviser on National Security Affairs. In this post Kissinger played an important role in the improved relations with both China and the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. He also iniated peace talks between the Arabs and the Israelis.
Kissinger later admitted that in September 1970, Nixon ordered him to organize a coup against the government of Salvador Allende. Kissinger also said that he called off the operation a month later. The government documents, however, indicate that the Central Intelligence Agency continued to encourage a coup in Chile.
During the presidential campaign Nixon promised to negotiate the end of the Vietnam War. However, negotiations with North Vietnam at the Paris peace talks were unproductive and Nixon decided to escalate the war by bombing National Liberation Front bases in Cambodia . In an effort to avoid international protests at this action, it was decided to keep information about these raids hidden. Pilots were sworn to secrecy and operational logs were falsified.
The bombing failed to destroy the NLF bases and so in April, 1970, Nixon decided to send in troops to finish off the job. The invasion of Cambodia provoked a wave of demonstrations in the United States in the United States and in one of these, four students were killed when National guardsmen opened fire at Kent State University.
By 1972 Nixon was convinced that a victory in Vietnam was unobtainable. In October, 1972, Henry Kissinger came close to agreeing to a formula to end the war. The plan was that US troops would withdraw from Vietnam in exchange for a cease-fire and the return of 566 American prisoners held in Hanoi. It was also agreed that the governments in North and South Vietnam would remain in power until new elections could be arranged to unite the whole country.
The main problem with this formula was that whereas the US troops would leave the country, the North Vietnamese troops could remain in their positions in the south. In an effort to put pressure on North Vietnam to withdraw its troops, Nixon ordered a new series of air-raids on Hanoi and Haiphong. It was the most intense bombing attack in world history. In eleven days, 100,000 bombs were dropped on the two cities. The destructive power was equivalent to five times that of the atom bomb used on Hiroshima.
The North Vietnamese refused to change the terms of the agreement and so in January, 1973. Nixon agreed to sign the peace plan that had been proposed in October. However, the bombing had proved to be popular with the American public as they had the impression that North Vietnam had been bombed into submission.
Nixon won the 1972 presidential election against the anti-Vietnam War campaigner, George McGovern, with 61 per cent of the popular vote. During the election campaign there was a break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic Party at the Watergate complex in Washington. Reports by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post, began to claim that some of Nixon's top officials were involved in organizing the Watergate break-in.
Nixon continued to insist that he knew nothing about the case or the payment of "hush-money" to the burglars. However, in April 1973, Nixon forced two of his principal advisers H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, to resign. A third adviser, John Dean, refused to go and was sacked. Nixon's vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, was also forced to go after being charged with income evasion and was replaced by Gerald Ford.
On 20th April, Dean issued a statement making it clear that he was unwilling to be a "scapegoat in the Watergate case". When Dean testified on 25th June, 1973 before the Senate Committee investigating Watergate, he claimed that Nixon participated in the cover-up. He also confirmed that Nixon had tape-recordings of meetings where these issues were discussed.
The Special Prosecutor now demanded access to these tape-recordings. At first Nixon refused but when the Supreme Court ruled against him and members of the Senate began calling for him to be impeached, he changed his mind. However, some tapes were missing while others contained important gaps.
Under extreme pressure, Nixon supplied tapescripts of the missing tapes. It was now clear that Nixon had been involved in the cover-up and members of the Senate began to call for his impeachment. On 9th August, 1974, Nixon became the first President of the United States to resign from office.
On 8th September, 1974, the new president, Gerald Ford, controversially granted Nixon a full pardon "for all offences against the United States" that might have been committed while in office. The pardon brought an end all criminal prosecutions that Nixon might have had to face concerning the Watergate Scandal. However, other members of his staff involved in helping in his deception were imprisoned.
In 1977 Nixon's chief-of staff, Jack Brennan, informed the media that he was willing to give a television interview on his presidency. Nixon was trying to get an agreement for an interview that did not involve a discussion of Watergate. Under these terms, the most he was offered was $400,000. David Frost offered $600,000 (over $2 million in today’s money) and a 20 percent share of any profits, if he was willing to discuss all subjects. Nixon agreed because he considered Frost a lightweight interviewer who would not know enough about the case. This was a miscalculation. Frost recruited James Reston, Jr. and Bob Zelnick to evaluate the Watergate minutiae prior to the interview.
The interviews began on March 23, 1977 and lasted 12 days. Frost lured Nixon into a false sense of security by interviewing Nixon for 24 hours without mentioning Watergate. In these sessions he gave him an easy time and allowed Nixon to boast about his contribution to world peace. However, in the final six hour session, his questioning revealed details of a previously unknown conversation between Nixon and Charles Colson. This clearly unsettled Nixon and Frost was able to go in for the kill. During the interview Nixon suggested that the break-in might have been botched on purpose. He added that he suspected that the CIA had been behind the operation.
The episode on Watergate, broadcast on 4th May, 1977, was watched by 45 million people. A Gallup poll conducted after the interview showed that 69 percent of the public thought that Nixon was still trying to cover up, 72 percent still thought he was guilty of obstruction of justice, and 75 percent thought he deserved no further role in public life.
David Frost was recently asked by Joan Bakewell why he had been willing to take such a dangerous risk by talking on television about Watergate. Frost had been told by Nixon’s chief of staff and confidant, Jack Brennan, that Nixon feared that some of the people who had gone to prison over Watergate, would sue him when they were released. Frost added that this surprisingly did not happen. Maybe Nixon needed the money to stop them from talking. It was not only the burglars who needed “hush money”.
Richard M. Nixon died of a stroke on 22nd April, 1994.
Richard Nixon: As of course, Mr. Hiss, you are aware, the committee has a very difficult problem in regard to the testimony which has been submitted to the committee by Mr. Chambers and by yourself. As you have probably noted from the press accounts of the hearings, Whittaker Chambers during the period that he alleges that he knew you was not known by the name of Whittaker Chambers. He has testified that he was known by the name of Carl. Do you recall having known an individual between the years 1934 and 1937 whose name was Carl?
Alger Hiss: I do not recall anyone by the name of Carl that could remotely be connected with the kind of testimony Mr. Chambers has given.
Richard Nixon: I am now showing you two pictures of Mr. Whittaker Chambers, also known as Carl, who testified that he knew you between the years 1934-37, and that he saw you in 1939. I ask you know, after looking at those pictures, if you can remember that person either as Whittaker Chambers or as Carl or as any other individual you have met.
Alger Hiss: May I recall to the committee the testimony I gave in the public session when I was shown another photograph of Mr. Whittaker Chambers, and I had prior to taking the stand tried to get as many newspapers that had photographs of Mr. Chambers as I could. I testified then that I could not swear that I had never seen the man whose picture was shown me. Actually the face has a certain familiarity. I think I also testified to that.
When you go out and shoot rats, you have to shoot straight because when you shoot wildly, it not only means that the rats may get away more easily, but you might hit someone else who is trying to shoot rats, too. So we have to be fair - for two very good reasons: one, because it is right; and two, because it is the most effective way of doing the job.
Men who have in the past done effective work exposing Communists in this country have, by reckless talk and questionable methods, made themselves the issue rather than the cause they believe in so deeply.
The Hiss case brought me national fame. But it also left a residue of hatred and hostility towards me - not only among Communists but also among substantial segments of the press and the intellectual community - a hostility which remains even today, ten years after Hiss's conviction was upheld by the United States Supreme Court.
Khrushchev's rough manners, bad grammar, and heavy drinking caused many Western journalists and diplomats to underestimate him. But despite his rough edges, he had a keen mind and a ruthless grasp of power politics. Bluntly ignoring Western invitations for disarmament and détente, Khrushchev openly continued to stockpile weapons... many believed that he would have no qualms about using them to unleash a nuclear war.
I was impressed with Kennedy. I remember liking his face, which was sometimes stern but which often broke into a good-natured smile. As for Nixon... he was an unprincipled puppet, which is the most dangerous kind. I was very glad Kennedy won the election... I joked with him that we had cast the deciding ballot in his election to the Presidency over that son-of-a-bitch Richard Nixon. When he asked me what I meant, I explained that by waiting to release the U-2 pilot Gary Powers until after the American election, we kept Nixon from being able to claim that he could deal with the Russians; our ploy made a difference of at least half a million votes, which gave Kennedy the edge he needed.
On Christmas Day, I had a long discussion with Pat, Tricia, and Julie. Pat said that she was completely happy with our life in New York, but whatever I decided, she was resigned to helping out. Tricia and Julie were now grown up, and I gave great weight to their opinions. Julie was a sophomore at Smith College. She had never really accepted the loss in 1960. She said, "You have to do it for the country." Tricia, a senior at Finch College, spoke in more personal terms. "If you don't run, Daddy, you really will have nothing to live for."
With the New Hampshire primary less than three months away, I could not prolong the final decision much longer. It was clear that in the busy holiday atmosphere at home, I would not be able to do any concentrated thinking. I decided therefore to go to Florida for a few days to relax and think in solitude.
As I left on December 28, Pat took my arm and kissed me. "Whatever you do, we'll be proud of you," she said. "You know we love you."
Bebe Rebozo met me at the airport, and we went directly to a villa at the Key Biscayne Hotel. I had telephoned Billy Graham and asked if he could come down and join us. For the next three days I walked on the beach and thought about the most important decision of my life. On the first night we sat up late talking about theology and politics and sports. Billy read aloud the first and second chapters of Romans. The next afternoon I invited him to join me for a walk along the beach. He had been very sick with pneumonia and was still recuperating, so we decided not to tax his strength by walking too far. I told him that I was genuinely torn on the question of whether to run. One part of me wanted to more than anything else, but another part of me rebelled at the thought of all it would entail. It was far from certain that I could win the nomination; even if I did, that would be only the prelude to an even more arduous campaign. Ten months of campaigning would mean great stress and strain on me and on my family, especially Pat.
We had become so involved in our conversation that we walked more than a mile-all the way to the old Spanish lighthouse at the tip of Key Biscayne. By the time we got back, Billy was weak and exhausted. He went upstairs to rest while Rebozo and I watched the Green Bay Packers defeat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in subfreezing weather in Green Bay. That night, New Year's Eve, we had dinner at the Jamaica Inn, where I had reserved my favorite table beside a small waterfall.
As Billy was getting ready to leave the next day, I went to his room and sat looking out at the ocean while he finished packing. "Well, what is your conclusion?" I asked. "What should I do?" Billy closed his suitcase and turned toward me. "Dick, I think you should run," he said. "If you don't you will always wonder whether you should have run and whether you could have won or not. You are the best prepared man in the United States to be President." He talked about the problems facing America and how much greater and more serious they were now than in 1960. He said that I had been denied the chance to provide leadership in 1960, but now, providentially, I had another chance. "I think it is your destiny to be President," he said.
John Mitchell arranged for Kissinger and me to meet on November 25 (1968) in my transition office in the Hotel Pierre in New York. Since neither of us was interested in small talk, I proceeded to outline for him some of the plans I had for my administration's foreign policy. I had read his book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy when it first appeared in 1957, and I knew that we were very much alike in our general outlook in that we shared a belief in the importance of isolating and influencing the factors affecting worldwide balances of power. We also agreed that whatever else a foreign policy might be, it must be strong to be credible and it must be credible to be successful. I was not hopeful about the prospects of settling the Vietnam war through the Paris talks and felt that we needed to rethink our whole diplomatic and military policy on Vietnam. Kissinger agreed, although he was less pessimistic about the negotiations than I was. I said that I was determined to avoid the trap Johnson had fallen into, of devoting virtually all my foreign policy time and energy to Vietnam, which was really a short-term problem. I felt that failing to deal with the longer-term problems could be devastating to America's security and survival, and in this regard I talked about restoring the vitality of the NATO alliance, and about the Middle East, the Soviet Union, and Japan. Finally I mentioned my concern about the need to re-evaluate our policy toward Communist China, and I urged him to read the Foreign Affairs article in which I had first raised this idea as a possibility and a necessity.
Kissinger said he was delighted that I was thinking in such terms. He said that if I intended to operate on such a wide-ranging basis, I was going to need the best possible system for getting advice. Kennedy had replaced NSC strategic planning with tactical crisis management; and Johnson, largely because of his concern with leaks, had reduced NSC decision-making to informal weekly luncheon sessions with only a few advisers. Kissinger recommended that I structure a national security apparatus within the White House that, in addition to coordinating foreign and defense policy, could also develop policy options for me to consider before making decisions.
I had a strong intuition about Henry Kissinger, and I decided on the spot that he should be my National Security Adviser. I did not make a specific offer to him then, but I made it clear that I was interested in having him serve in my administration.
I met with Kissinger again two days later and asked him if he would like to head the NSC. He replied that he would be honored to accept. He immediately began assembling a staff and analyzing the policy choices that I would have to address as soon as I took office. From the beginning he worked with the intensity and stamina that were to characterize his performance over the years.
Your decision to invade the territory of Cambodia can only increase the enormity of the tragedy in which our nation is already deeply and unfortunately involved in that region. Widening the war at this point in time once again merely reinforces the bankruptcy of our policy of force and violence in Vietnam. Your action taken without consultation or authorization by the Congress has created a serious Constitutional crisis at a time when there is growing division in our nation.
By your action you have driven the wedge of division deeper and you have dangerously alienated millions of young Americans. The bitter fruits of this growing alienation and frustration among America's youth have been harvested on the campus of Kent State University, where the lives of four students were ended by the needless and inexcusable use of military force.
The problem. Mr. President, is that we cannot successfully preach nonviolence at home while we escalate mass violence abroad. It is your responsibility to lead us out of the Southeast Asian War - to peace at home and abroad. We must mobilize for peace rather than wider theatres of war in order to turn our resources and the hearts, hands, and minds of our people to the fulfillment of America's unfinished agenda at home.
For years Nixon had been trying to track down proof that Larry O'Brien was on Howard Hughes's payroll as a lobbyist at the same time that he was Chairman, of the Democratic National Committee. This could be hot ammunition to discredit O'Brien, Nixon believed. What had O'Brien done in exchange for Hughes's money (reportedly, a huge $180,000-a-year retainer)? A wiretap on O'Brien's telephone and a bug in his office could obtain the proof Nixon wanted.
To take such a risk as that burglary to gain that information was absurd, I thought. But on matters pertaining to Hughes, Nixon sometimes seemed to lose touch with reality. His indirect association with this mystery man may have caused him, in his view, to lose two elections.
His brother Don had been granted a $205,000 loan from Hughes in the 1950s when Nixon was Vice-President. Jack Anderson had broken that story shortly before the 1960 election, and Nixon felt his razor-thin defeat by John Kennedy was partially due to that story.
Then; in the 1962 California gubernatorial rare the loan had surfaced again, this time in a Reporter magazine article by James Phelan - and Governor Pat Brown could have credited his surprise victory over Nixon to the repercussions of that story.
And yet, even with this background,, at that very moment, unknown to me at the time, $100,000 of Hughes's cash was resting in a safe deposit box in Florida leased by Charles 'Bebe' Rebozo, Nixon's closest personal friend.
Years later, in 1976, I asked Nixon about that $100,000, which by then had been the subject of vigorous investigation for years. The investigation had finally petered out with no results. Rebozo explained that the $100,000 was a campaign contribution, and the reason it never reached the Campaign Committee was that an internecine war had broken out in the Hughes empire; Rebozo said he was afraid the President would be embarrassed by one side or another in the Hughes war if the campaign contribution was revealed.
I got the disturbing news from Bob Haldeman that the break-in of the Democratic National Committee involved someone who is on the payroll of the Committee to Re-elect the President. Mitchell had told Bob on the phone enigmatically not to get involved in it, and I told Bob that I simply hoped that none of our people were involved for two reasons - one, because it was stupid in the way it was handled; and two, because I could see no reason whatever for trying to bug the national committee.
My reaction to the Watergate break-in was completely pragmatic. If it was also cynical, it was a cynicism born of experience. I had been in politics too long, and seen everything from dirty tricks to vote fraud. I could not muster much moral outrage over a political bugging.
Larry O'Brien might affect astonishment and horror, but he knew as well as I did that political bugging had been around nearly since the invention of the wiretap. As recently as 1970 a former member of Adiai Stevenson's campaign staff had publicly stated that he had tapped the Kennedy organization's phone lines at the 1960 Democratic convention Lyndon Johnson felt that the Kennedys had had him tapped - Barry Goldwater said that his 1964 campaign had been bugged; and Edgar Hoover told me that in 1968 Johnson had ordered my campaign plane bugged. Nor was the practice confined to politicians. In 1969 an NBC producer was fined and given a suspended sentence for planting a concealed microphone at a closed meeting of the 1968 Democratic platform committee. Bugging experts told the Washington Post right after the Watergate break-in that the practice "has not been uncommon in elections past... it is particularly common for candidates of the same party to bug one another."
Kissinger had already planned to hold a press conference on October 26 in order to reassure the North Vietnamese that we were serious about reaching an agreement as well as to distract attention from Thieu's obstructionism. Now his press conference took on an additional purpose and importance: we had to use it to undercut the North Vietnamese propaganda maneuver and to make sure that our version of the agreement was the one that had greater public impact.
In his opening remarks Kissinger said, "We believe that peace is at hand. We believe that an agreement is within sight, based on the May 8 proposals of the President and some adaptations of our January 25 proposal, which is just to all parties."
Public attention focused on this turn of phrase, "Peace is at hand." Another statement later in the briefing would also come back to haunt us. Kissinger said, "We believe, incidentally, what remains to be done can be settled in one more negotiating session with the North Vietnamese negotiators, lasting, I would think, no more than three or four days, so we are not talking of a delay of a very long period of time." When Ziegler told me that the news lead from Kissinger's briefing was "Peace is at hand," I knew immediately that our bargaining position with the North Vietnamese would be seriously eroded and our problem of bringing Thieu and the South Vietnamese along would be made even more difficult. No less disturbing was the prospect of the premature hopes for an early settlement that would be raised at home, while the McGovern supporters would naturally claim that we were trying to manipulate the election. Kissinger himself soon realized that it was a mistake to have gone so far in order to convince the North Vietnamese of our bona fides by making a public commitment to a settlement.
On the positive side, there was no doubt that Kissinger's briefing had succeeded in completely undercutting the enemy's ploy and superseding their false interpretation of the proposed peace agreement.
The North Vietnamese thought they were going to surprise us by going public through the NLF with a somewhat distorted and garbled version of the peace plan. Consequently, Henry (Kissinger) went public and indicated that "peace was at hand." This was really going considerably further than I would have gone, and I know Henry was worried about it. However, when I talked to him about what I should say when we went to campaign in Kentucky, he very much did not want me to go back from what he had said.
John Dean, the President's former counsel had been fired on April 30 and was now busily leaking stories all over Washington about the Watergate scandal. Some of them hinted that the President was involved in the cover-up. Dean seemed to have some record of White House misdeeds; he told Judge John Sirica that he had removed certain documents from the White House to protect them from "illegitimate destruction". Dean had put them in a safe-deposit box and given the keys to the judge. The New York Times, also citing anonymous informers, said that one of its sources "suggested that Mr. Dean may have tape-recorded some of his White House conversations".
John Dean: We have a cancer within, close to the Presidency, that is growing. Basically it is because we are being blackmailed.
Richard Nixon: How much money do you need?
John Dean: I would say these people are going to cost a million dollars over the next two years.
Richard Nixon: You could get a million dollars. You could get it in cash. I know where it could be gotton.
(1) Cox had to go. Richardson would inevitably go with him. Otherwise, if we had waited for Cox making a major mistake which in the public mind would give us what appeared to be good cause for him to go would mean that we had waited until Cox had moved against us.
(2) We must learn from the Richardson incident what people we can depend on. Establishment types like Richardson simply won't stand with us when chips are down and they have to choose between their political ambitions and standing by the President who made it possible for them to hold the high positions from which they were now resigning.
(3) As far as the tapes were concerned we need to put the final documents in the best possible PR perspective. We must get out the word with regard to no "doctoring" of the tapes.
(4) We must compare our situation now with what it was on April 30. Then the action with regard to Haldeman and Ehrlichman, Gray, Dean, and Kleindienst did not remove the cloud on the President as far as an impression of guilt on his part was concerned. In fact it increased that doubt and rather than satisfying our critics once they had tasted a little blood they liked it so much they wanted far more. Since April 30 we have slipped a great deal. We had 60 percent approval rating in the polls on that date and now we stand at 30 percent at best.
(5) Now the question is whether our action on turning over the tapes or the transcripts thereof helps remove the cloud of doubt. Also on the plus side, the Mideast crisis, probably if the polls are anywhere near correct, helped some what because it shows the need for RN's leadership in foreign policy.
(6) Our opponents will now make an all-out push. The critical question is whether or not the case for impeachment or resignation is strong enough in view of the plus factors I noted in previous paragraph.
Over the past months I had talked about resignation with my family with a few close friends, and with Haig and Ziegler. But the idea was anathema to me. I believed that my resignation under pressure would change our whole form of government. The change might not be apparent for many years; but once the first President had resigned under fire and thereby established a precedent, the opponents of future Presidents would have a formidable new leverage. It was not hard to visualize a situation in which Congress, confronted with a President it did not like could paralyze him by blocking him on legislation, foreign affairs and appointments. Then, when the country was fed up with the resulting stalemate, Congress could claim that it would be better for the country if the President resigned. And Nixon would be cited as the precedent. By forcing Presidents out through resignation, Congress would no longer have to take the responsibility and bear the verdict of history for voting impeachment.
I realize that these transcripts will provide grist for many sensational stories in the press. Parts will seem to be contradictory with one another and parts will be in conflict with some of the testimony given in the Senate Watergate Committee hearings.
I have been reluctant to release these tapes not just because they will embarrass me and those with whom I have talked - which they will - and not just because they will become the subject of speculation and even ridicule - which they will - and not just because certain parts of them will be seized upon by political and journalistic opponents - which they will.
I have been reluctant because, in these and in all the other conversations in this office, people have spoken their minds freely, never dreaming that specific sentences or even parts of sentences would be picked out as the subjects of national attention and controversy.
I am confident that the American people will see these transcripts for what they are, fragmentary records from a time more than a year ago that now seems very distant, the records of a President and of a man suddenly being confronted and having to cope with information which, if true, would have the most far-reaching consequences not only for his personal reputation but, more important, for his hopes, his plans, his goals for the people who had elected him as their leader.
In giving you these records - blemishes and all - I am placing my trust in the basic fairness of the American people.
I know in my own heart that through the long, painful, and difficult process revealed in these transcripts I was trying in that period to discover what was right and to do what was right.
I called Steve Bull, who had greeted Goldwater and his colleagues in the West Lobby. "Take the boys into the office," I said, "and make them comfortable until I get over."
They were all seated when I arrived: Barry Goldwater, the former standard-bearer and now the silver-haired patriarch of the party; Hugh Scott, the Senate Republican Leader, and John Rhodes, the House Republican Leader. Over the years I had shared many successes and many failures with these men. Now they were here to inform me of the bleakness of the situation, and to narrow my choices. I pushed back my chair, put my feet up on the desk, and asked them how things looked.
Scott said that they had asked Goldwater to be their spokesman. In a measured voice Goldwater began, "Mr. President, this isn't pleasant, but you want to know the situation, and it isn't good."
I asked how many would vote for me in the Senate. "Half a dozen?" I ventured.
Goldwater's answer was maybe sixteen or perhaps eighteen.
Puffing on his unlighted pipe, Scott guessed fifteen. "It's pretty grim," he said, as one by one he ran through a list of old supporters, many of whom were now against me. Involuntarily I winced at the names of men I had worked to help elect, men who were my friends.
I asked St. Clair how long he thought we could take to turn over the sixty-four tapes covered by the decision. He said that with all the problems involved in listening to them and preparing transcripts, we could probably take a month or more.
I thought that we should assess the damage right away. When Haig called Buzhardt to discuss the decision, I took the phone and asked him to listen to the June 23 tape and report back to Haig as soon as possible. This was the tape I had listened to in May on which Haldeman and I discussed having the CIA limit the FBI investigation for political reasons rather than the national security reasons I had given in my public statements. When I first heard it, I knew it would be a problem for us if it ever became public - now I would find out just how much of a problem.
Buzhardt listened to the tape early in the afternoon. When he called back, he told Haig and St. Clair that even though it was legally defensible, politically and practically it was the "smoking gun" we had been fearing.
On Thursday, August 1, I told Haig that I had decided to resign. If the June 23 tape was not explainable, I could not very well expect the staff to explain and defend it.
In the past few days ... it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort. As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that deliberately difficult process, and a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future.
But with the disappearance of that base, I now believe that the constitutional purpose has been served, and there is no longer a need for the process to be prolonged.
Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow. By taking this action, I hope that I will have hastened the start of that process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.
I regret deeply any injuries that may have been done in the course of the events that led to this decision. I would say only that if some of my judgments were wrong - and some were wrong - they were made in what I believed at the time to be in the best interest of the nation.
I have done my very best in all the days since to be true to that pledge. As a result of these efforts. I am confident that the world is a safer place today, not only for the people of America, but for the people of all nations, and that all of our children have a better chance than before of living in peace rather than dying in war. This, more than anything, is what I hoped to achieve when I sought the presidency. This, more than anything, is what I hope will be my legacy to you, to our country, as I leave the presidency.
The Watergate break-in of 1972 (in which, I have always been convinced, Nixon was not so much a guilty perpetrator as a guilty victim) followed Nixon's secret negotiations with Hanoi for disengagement from Vietnam, significantly advanced by his May 1972 visit to Moscow, where he signed the first Strategic Arms Limitation Agreement.
Nixon told his press secretary, Ron Ziegler, that having reached the low point he was now prepared for the ascent. It was going to be "a turning point for our approach to dealing with Watergate," he later wrote. "`We will take some desperate and strong measure,' I told Ziegler, `and this time there is no margin for error.' " He planned a televised speech for November 7, precisely one year after he'd been reelected, to launch Operation Candor. He would display not the wounded president but the man who had come back from many previous political defeats and who would once more rise from the ashes. The speech would be followed by ten days of "bridge-building" breakfast meetings and private chats with hundreds of Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and a swing through the South to trumpet the message that the president was still on the job and fighting for the country.
This, then, was the setting for one of the more curious episodes in the history of Watergate, the eighteen-and-a-half-minute gap in a taped conversation. The gap has usually been attributed to a mistake on the part of Nixon's personal secretary Rose Mary Woods, and/or to a deliberate attempt by a mechanically clumsy president to erase information detrimental to him. But there was a more sinister aspect to the affair than has previously been understood, and it involves Haig and Buzhardt and an especially well-timed and dramatic revelation by Deep Throat.
Back on September 28, anticipating that the appellate court would rule that the tapes must be turned over, Nixon had asked Haig to arrange for Rose Mary Woods to go to Camp David and transcribe the subpoenaed conversations. Woods was a particularly good choice for this task because she knew intimately the president's patterns of speech, and also knew most of the voices on the recordings-those of Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and other counselors. Fiercely loyal to Nixon, she could be counted on to delete the expletives and the scatological characterizations that sometimes dotted their chatter, not to be shocked by the conversations, and to keep silent about their contents. To help with the technical arrangements, Haig turned to John Bennett, the deputy presidential assistant whom Haig had appointed custodian of the recordings in July.
The next day, Woods and Steve Bull drove to Camp David carrying eight tapes and three Sony tape recorders provided by Bennett. In the privacy of rustic Dogwood Cabin, Woods began what she soon discovered would be a long and painstaking weekend of listening and typing. She spent twenty-nine hours just on the first item listed on the Special Prosecutor's subpoena, the June 20, 1972, meeting in the president's EOB office attended at various times by Nixon, Ehrlichman, and Haldeman, a meeting that lasted from 10:30 A.M. to nearly noon. As pointed out earlier, the quality of the recordings taken from the EOB office was less satisfactory than those recorded in the Oval Office.
The president was at Camp David that weekend and came in to check on his secretary's progress. She told him it was slow going because she had to replay sections of the tape over and over to get an accurate account. Nixon himself put on the headphones and listened for about five minutes. "At first all I could hear was a complete jumble," he recalled in his memoir. "Gradually I could make out a few words, but at times the rattling of a cup or the thump of a hand on the desk would obliterate whole passages." The Oval Office tapes that he had personally listened to back in June had been much easier to understand, he told Woods, and then left the cabin after sympathizing about her arduous task.
Bull had a problem, too, that weekend. He was to locate the conversations called for in Cox's subpoena on the correct six-hour tape reels, and cue them to the proper beginning spots to ready them for Woods. He found the June 20 EOB tape, but could not match up the conversation on the reel with the subpoena list. The list asked for one conversation among the participants, and there had been two on the morning of June 20, one between Nixon and Ehrlichman, and a second immediately thereafter between Nixon and Haldeman.
Haig phoned the cabin on the morning of September 29 to see how the work was going, and Bull told him he simply could not find the one long conversation referred to on the subpoena. Haig called Buzhardt, who had remained in Washington, and explained the situation. Buzhardt made a judgment, which Haig then passed to Woods, who typed a note that she gave to Bull. The note later became part of the documentary evidence assembled by the House Judiciary Committee. It reads, in full: "Cox was a little bit confused in his request re the meeting on June 20th. It says Ehrlichman Haldeman meeting-what he wants is the segment on June 20 from 10:25 to 11:20 with John Ehrlichman alone. Al Haig."
Bull promptly went back to his search, and it was then that he discovered that two of the other subpoenaed conversations were missing; he passed the information to Haig.
The entire crew returned to the White House on Monday, October 1. Woods had still not finished transcribing the first conversation, but back at her White House office she now had a more convenient mechanical setup. The Secret Service had supplied her with a Uher 5000 recorder that included a foot pedal for easy operation.
Just after two that afternoon, she rushed into Nixon's EOB office, visibly upset and saying, "I have made a terrible mistake." After completing her work on the Ehrlichman conversation, she told Nixon, she had forwarded the tape to make sure that she had indeed transcribed all of that section. As she was doing so, a call came in on her office phone and she had a conversation of four or five minutes. When she hung up and went back to work on the tape, she was rudely greeted by a shrill buzzing sound. A section of the Haldeman conversation had been wiped out.
Later, Woods would reconstruct her mistake for a court hearing. She stated that she must have pushed the "record" button on the machine rather than the "stop" button, while unintentionally resting her foot on the pedal throughout her phone call, an action that kept the machine running and, in effect, recording noise over the previously recorded conversation.
Nixon calmed Woods and told her the mistake was not of consequence because Buzhardt had told him that the Haldeman portion was not among the subpoenaed tapes. Haig called Buzhardt, who reconfirmed that the Haldeman conversation was not on Cox's list, and Nixon was relieved.
He should not have rested easy, because Buzhardt was at the very least plain wrong. The counsel had been in continuous touch with Cox since the subpoena had been served, and was in possession of a memo from Cox, dated August 13, that clarified the grand jury subpoena and made it plain that what he expected was Nixon's conversation with "John D. Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman in his Old Executive Office Building [OEOB] office on June 20, 1972 from 10:30 a.m. until approximately 12:45 p.m." Any lingering doubt that both conversations were sought was removed by the additional statement in Cox's memo that "Ehrlichman and then Haldeman went to see the President" that morning (italics added for emphasis). Moreover, Buzhardt had also had his alarm bells rung on the matter of the subpoenaed tapes by the news from Steve Bull that two of the conversations couldn't be located. That he reassured Nixon a second time as to the Haldeman conversation's irrelevance suggests that Buzhardt either didn't look at Cox's explanatory August 13 memo, or that he deliberately ignored it. Error of omission or commission?
When Bennett took the stand in Sirica's courtroom on November 6 and described his custodianship of the recordings, his role in providing the tapes to Bull for the trip to Camp David, and so on, the issue was the missing two conversations. The next day, November 7, when Bennett returned to the stand, he told the court that he'd had a talk the previous evening with Rose Mary Woods during which she complained of an unexpected "gap" in one of the tapes she was reviewing for the president.
But this wasn't the gap in the June 20 conversation that she had inadvertently caused. It was a different tape, which as it would turn out had no gap. Woods hadn't mentioned the gap in the June 20 tape to Bennett, but had told Bennett that she'd been reviewing a tape that hadn't even been subpoenaed, an April 16, 1973, Nixon-Dean meeting. "I think she was puzzled," Bennett testified. "The tape was on the machine. She said, `I've got a gap in this.' " Two days earlier, Bennett told the court, he'd given Woods a new batch of six tapes and had said that the president wanted her to listen to that particular Nixon-Dean conversation and that it was among those reels somewhere.
Rose Mary Woods was called to the stand the next day. She said she had checked the tape and had been mistaken and that there was no gap in that tape. When cross-examined, she made clear that all she had meant by the word "gap" was a missing conversation. With that, the inquiry into this particular gap was settled, and the hearing went on to consider other matters. But by raising the specter of one gap, Bennett had opened up the possibility that the still-secret four-to-five-minute erasure on the June 20 Haldeman tape would shortly be uncovered in the court hearing. That, of course, would be damaging both to Woods and to Nixon.
Meanwhile, Bennett's testimony was the occasion for some curious doings at the Washington Post.
There were two stories on the front page of the Post on November 8, 1973, the day on which Woods testified. Under the headline TAPES HAVE PUZZLING "GAP" were two articles. One, under the subhead NIXON AIDE TESTIFIES, was the straight news account of Bennett's court testimony on the previous day, in which he had quoted Rose Mary Woods about a gap that puzzled her.
The second, situated next to the first, was under the subhead PARTS "INAUDIBLE." This second story was written by Bernstein and Woodward, and said that "portions of the seven White House tapes" that Nixon was to turn over to Sirica "are `inaudible' and thus will probably fail to definitively answer questions about Mr. Nixon's role" in Watergate. Quoting "White House sources" to whom the reporters had talked over the past three days, the story said the tapes were marred by "`gaps in conversations,' 'unevenness,' 'excessive background noise,' 'periods of silence,' and 'cut-ins and cut-outs during conversation.' " The article stated flatly that "there is serious concern among the President's aides and advisers that the latest problems regarding the tapes will further strain the credibility of the White House." For instance, the reporters quoted a "high-ranking presidential adviser" as saying, "This town is in such a state that everybody will say, 'They've doctored the tapes.' " This same official had "made clear he rejected that notion."
Two paragraphs down, the reporters quoted a source who clearly did anything but reject the doctoring notion:
"Of five sources who confirmed that difficulties have risen concerning the quality of the tapes, one said the problems "are of a suspicious nature" and "could lead someone to conclude that the tapes have been tampered with." According to this source, conversation on some of the tapes appears to have been erased - either inadvertently or otherwise - or obliterated by the injection of background noise. Such background noise could be the result of either poorly functioning equipment, erasure or purposeful injection, the same source said. The four other sources disputed that there is anything suspicious about the deficiencies and insisted the tapes are marred only by technical problems that can be satisfactorily explained in court."
Who was the one source who believed that an effort might be under way to destroy evidence? Later, in All the President's Men, the authors of the article revealed that it was Deep Throat. Sometime in the first week of November 1973, Woodward initiated a meeting with his source in the underground garage, and received startling information: "Deep Throat's message was short and simple: One or more of the tapes contained deliberate erasures."
President Richard Nixon personally ordered the Watergate break-in of the Democratic party headquarters, according to a senior aide who was jailed for his part in the affair. Hitherto it has been assumed that the president took part only in covering up the break-in organised by other members of his team in 1972.
Jeb Magruder, who was jailed for seven months for his part in the break-in, now claims, in a television documentary to be shown in the US this week, that Nixon was involved from the beginning.
Mr Magruder, now a Presbyterian minister, says he was with the attorney general, the late John Mitchell, on March 30 1972 and heard the president give instructions on the telephone to go ahead with the break-in. It took place on June 17 1972.
He says he heard Nixon's voice say: "John ... we need to get the information on [the Democratic party chairman] Larry O'Brien, and the only way we can do that is through Liddy's plan. And you need to do that."
Mr Magruder says he could not hear every word but he "heard the import".