Monday, April 9, 2018

This time in Watergate history...

Been giving an occasional read of The Final Days from Woodward and Berstein, and I was struck by this passage that takes place in late April 1974.
At forty-five seconds past 9 P.M., the President began. "...In these transcripts, portions not relevant to my knowledge or actions with regard to Watergate are not included, but everything that is relevant is included - the rough as well as the smooth," he said. Holding the pages of the fourteenth draft of the speech, he referred to "the strategy sessions, the explorations of alternatives, the weighing of human and political costs" laid out in the transcripts. "These materials - together with those already made available - will tell it all." By providing transcripts instead of the tapes, he was at once protecting the principle of presidential confidentiality and enabling the Congress to meet its constitutional responsibilities.

The impeachment of a President was "a remedy of last resort [which] would put the nation through a wrenching ordeal....The impact of such an ordeal would be felt throughout the world, and it would have its effect on the lives of all Americans for many years to come. Because this is an issue that profoundly affects all the American people, in addition to turning over these transcripts to the House Judiciary Committee, I have directed that they should all be made public."
Nixon flies off for a campaign-style rally in Phoenix 4 days later, and on the stage says
"The time has come to get Watergate behind us and to get on with the business of America." He pledged "to stay on the job." That earned him a thunderous ovation.
4 days after that rally, with the Nixon transcripts becoming public and digested, the worm starts turning on Capitol Hill for good.
, ...The edited transcripts, said the Senate Minority Leader, reflected "a deplorable, disgusting, shabby, immoral performance" by each of the participants.

On the other side of the Capitol that morning, House Minority Leader John Rhodes was hunched over his desk, reading transcripts. He had finished about half of them and was dismayed. He was now persuaded that Richard Nixon was not indispensable as President of the United States. Aside from the amorality of Nixon's discussions, Rhodes thought they revealed a president who was not his own man, not in command. Rhodes had always thought Nixon was able. He had thought that the President's aloofness showed strength. He had always admired Nixon's ability to make tough decisions and stick by them. But no longer. "I have never read such sleaziness in all my life," he told an aide.....

At two o'clock [Senate GOP Leader] Scott walked through the Capitol to his weekly meeting with Rhodes in Room H-230. They shook hands, more solemnly than usual. For months there had been on-and-off discussions among the Minority Leaders, Barry Goldwater, and a few other influential Republicans about going to the White House to urge resignation. There might come a point, Rhodes and Scott agreed, when they might have to jump ship - for the sake of the country and the party. And for themselves. It had always been regarded as a last resort, as hypothetical. Now the possibility seemed suddenly real.
Not known by the GOP leaders at the time - Nixon had already been named as an unindicted co-conspirator by the Watergate grand jury in February, and by the end of May, special prosecutor Leon Jaworski was asking the Supreme Court for an expedited hearing to get the Nixon tapes.

Sure seems like we're somewhere around those days as another midterm approaches, aren't we?

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