Shelves: watergate-nixon I believe this is the definitive Watergate book. Yes, it is VERY detailed oriented. It uses just about every book written about Watergate. The author also points out when there are discrepancies and credits where they come from. There are still many questions that would probably never be answered I believe this is the definitive Watergate book. He relates the genesis of the plans for dirty tricks to ensure re-election in
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Putnam, pp. There have, admittedly, been a few quite funny examples of the genre. The brittle and amoral wits of the new Post-Modern New Republic actually ran a competition to summarise the bewildering complexity of the Iran-Contra affair, and got gates galore. The man who started this frivolous auction was William Safire, former speechwriter to Richard Nixon and now columnist for the New York Times.
As both these books in quite different ways remind us, Watergate was no mere smash-and-grab on public funds, and no paltry revelation of lousy morals among the morality-preaching classes. Yet if one black nightwatchman had not noticed signs of forcible entry in that hideous condo on the Potomac where the hapless Democrats had so typically sited their campaign HQ , and had not decided to raise the alarm, it is terrifying to think how ignorant we would now be of the uses of power, and even more terrifying to reflect on the uses that power would have made — nearly did make — of our ignorance.
There is a whole American political vernacular, now quite highly evolved, that exists to serve the higher purposes of euphemism and amnesia.
Let us, they intone, put the past behind us and look to the future. Let us move the country forward and bind up the wounds. Of course, the same politician or cleric or editorialist is capable of saying, sometimes on the very same day and usually as if it were being said for the very first time, that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. When he became President, he took on challenges here at home on matters from cancer research to environmental protection, putting the power of the Federal Government where Republicans and Democrats had neglected to put it in the past — in foreign policy.
Did Truman and Eisenhower neglect foreign policy? Never mind — onward and upward. He made mistakes and they, like his accomplishments, are part of his life and record. But the enduring lesson of Richard Nixon is that he never gave up being part of the action and passion of his times. Clinton gave one hostage to fortune in this otherwise anodyne and self-serving address, which too obviously identified with a man of obscure — not to say shady — background who had lifelong problems with the press.
If Richard Nixon can be rehabilitated and have all his crimes reduced to peccadilloes by the forgiving optic of the long view, then all political offences past and future can also be subjected to the solvent effect of moral and historical relativism. Yet at the back of many minds was the fact that, on the day he was speaking, President Clinton faced a special prosecutor of his own. And so did his wife, for her eager collusion in the making of Arkansas into a banana republic.
Two decades previously, Ms Hillary Rodham had been a junior aide to the Senate Watergate Committee as it readied, very cumbrously and reluctantly, the articles of impeachment against Nixon.
Her boss at the time had been Bernard Nussbaum, one of many ambitious attorneys to get a head start from that investigation. Mr Nussbaum had just been forced to resign as White House counsel, for his apparent role in muddying the inquiry into the death of Vince Foster.
Thus, while a generalised amnesty for all crimes committed in office might have a short-term marginal utility for all serving politicians, it did look a touch obvious in point of immediate self-service. And the apparently noble injunction — to consider an ex-President as a whole man, take him in the round, take him for all in all — could rebound horribly if it meant raking up things that the country was supposed to have forgotten or forgiven.
This journal, written in real time by one who was uniquely intimate with Nixon, put a rapid end to the period of uncritical mourning that Clinton had so moistly proposed. None of the defectors from the Nixon camp, many of whom wrote revealing but sickly memoirs of their own rebirth, and none of the Nixon-hating chroniclers, has come close to the etching of thuggery and corruption, in its larger and its smaller dimensions, than has Haldeman by the mere device of keeping accurate notes.
Even the stoutest Watergate buff can lose hold of the cast-list, and of course Haldeman assumes day-to-day knowledge, so a compendium of the Nixon gang from Abplanalp to Ziegler, and complete with Rebozos and Liddys, is of the essence.
Large kick-backs came from the Marcos family in the Philippines, in exchange for the support given to their disgusting regency. From the military despotism then ruling in Athens had come a large tranche of off-the-record money, actually laundered through the Central Intelligence Agency and probably given to secure the position of the asinine and sinister Greek-American Spiro Agnew another Safire client on the GOP ticket.
Any one of these disclosures might have put Nixon behind bars as early as Then consider the burglary team itself. In his diaries, which touch on many of the skulduggeries listed above, he re-establishes the centrality of the war. As the release of the Pentagon Papers demonstrated, the entire Vietnam enterprise was dependent on a systematic deceit of Congress and the press.
However, it was the political crisis created by the war that gave Nixon his chance for power in , and it was the political crisis occasioned by his own manipulation of the war that gave rise to Watergate.
Clifford describes this illegal and possibly treasonous secret diplomacy in some detail in his book. The detail derives from the delicate fact that the White House put Nixon and his collaborators — such as the notorious Anna Chennault of the China lobby — under electronic surveillance.
This was done legally, and the Cabinet even considered making the findings public before concluding that the shock to public opinion resulting both from the treason and the bugging would be too great. Nixon narrowly won the election and five years later, after an additional twenty thousand or so American casualties, abandoned Vietnam on much the same terms as Humphrey had proposed to do.
This appalling story has been surfacing in bits and pieces over the intervening years, but Haldeman has some really tantalising nuggets of indirect confirmation. A day later: The P also got back on the Watergate thing today, making the point that I should talk to Connally about Johnson bugging process to get his judgment as to how to handle it I talked to Mitchell on the phone on this subject and he said De Loach had told him that he was up to date on the thing because he had a call from Texas.
A Star reporter was making an inquiry in the last week or so, and LBJ got very hot and called Deke [De Loach] and said to him that if the Nixon people are going to play with this, that he would release deleted material — national Security saying that our side was asking that certain things be done. By our side, I assume he means the Nixon campaign organisation.
De Loach took this as a direct threat from Johnson. What Johnson had on Nixon I suppose we will never know. Johnson could have revealed the private and crooked diplomacy of the Republicans over Vietnam. Or he could have disclosed what he also knew about the illegal money from the Greek junta. It had been decided not to make use of the findings — probably because they would reveal too much about the workings of the CIA. But none of this would have applied to a Johnson threatened with blackmail in The Haldeman book, in other words, teaches us about more than just Nixon.
It would rapidly have emerged, for instance, that Nixon was personally involved in a clever forgery of purported Kennedy White House cables. That pesky Vietnam War again. How it does keep cropping up. A week later, Nixon is recorded coming round to that tactic and in more or less those words. It leaves it in the dust, on the skip, in the crapper and down the chute. Much the same applies to unexamined claims that Nixon was bold in China and Russia.
He lifted a ban that he had himself imposed on relations with China, so that there is something servile and masochistic about the think-tankers who display their awed gratitude for his statesmanship.
The aspect of China policy which represents the Nixon-Kissinger legacy is to be found today in the constipated silence with which official America treats the subject of the Tiananmen revolt — the crushing of which was supported by both men at the time. Though one can appreciate their reluctance. What if the same standard came to be applied to them? Thus the Haldeman remark about the connection between Vietnam and Watergate is true in both the large and the little senses. He meant it to mean the formation of a black-bag team within the state, who began wiretapping dissenters in the Defence and State Departments and in the press, and in the process debauched the rule of law and forced an intervention from Congress and the courts.
But the virulent paranoia of the Nixon White House is probably best summarised in his attitude to Jews. He was convinced that the chosen were working against him, from within and from without. House Jew Henry Kissinger, asked to comment on this last month, said rather feebly that he knew of no action taken by Nixon to materialise these wild claims, and thereby suggested that it was all a harmless blowing-off of steam.
He wanted a purge, because he was sure that a semitic cabal was making the unemployment figures look bad for him. Malek duly supplied the list. No mention was made of any of this, in a country that is obsessed by anti-semitism and the Holocaust, during the Nixon obsequies.
But, as one turns these and other pages of the Haldeman and Emery books, one is irresistibly reminded of the private style of a Mafia capo: foul-mouthed, philistine, conspiratorial, violent, and happiest when appealing to the cheapest and lowest of his subordinates.
In October We then went into dinner in the outer office. Well, well, well. Does one detect the stirrings of resentment? This valet still thought enough of his master to go to jail for him and be ignored when he came out, so it would not be fair to write down his contemporary misgivings and occasional rancour as anything other than sincere. Best of all in a way is the stuff on law and order. Nixon adored thuggery and had a vicarious admiration for those who could practise it without the trammel of law.
He used Teamster Union goon squads to bust up peaceful anti-war demonstrations, talking approvingly of cracking heads and kicking ass. Better still: We had a little flap with the Director of the National Institutes of Mental Health, who apparently said the other day that he thought marijuana offences should be handled like traffic violations.
Gerald Ford is saying that without Nixon he would never have been President. Jimmy Carter is saying that without Ford and the pardon of Nixon he would never have been President. Reagan is saying that without Jimmy Carter he could never have hoped to be President.
The Bush and Clinton sequiturs in this gallery are too obvious to bear repetition. The taint of the pardon, which was the last exercise in the extended cover-up, has descended to our own day. The press and Congress, both of which fought hard to avoid convicting Nixon while he was alive and kicking, have ever since been extremely careful to avoid the charge of partisanship or over-zealousness that they did so little to deserve in the first place.
Post-Watergate morality is broader, more cynical, more tolerant. It is openly said, and perhaps correctly, that the system could not stand another shock of that magnitude, and that it is essential to maintain public confidence in the Presidency.
On this calculus, the rehabilitation of Nixon is an overdue apology from society to a leader it never appreciated. How shrewd of him, then, never to have offered a single word of apology on his own account. Watergate was a raising of the curtain on the world of illicit campaign finance, of covert action as a political principle, of the power of organised crime, of the consequences of imperial brutality and of the annexation of national police and bureaucratic agencies to the ends of domestic power.
The sight was so alarming that many in the polis successfully demanded that the curtain be rung down again. So read these books and weep.
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London Review of Books
Watergate : The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon
Watergate: The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon