Friday, July 1, 2011

July 1, 1971

Remember, as Fred Emery explains it, there are now three converging obsessions for Nixon and the White House by now: prosecuting Daniel Ellsberg; a campaign to stamp out all leaks across the executive branch, with Chief of Staff Haldeman designated the "Lord High Executioner"; and an ongoing campaign, headed by White House counsel Chuck Colson, to gather any negative information, including personal information, on the Democrats (and, now, Ellsberg).

On July 1, Colson interviewed Howard Hunt about heading up that third operation.

Meanwhile, the president was on a roll. 8:45 AM, with Haldeman (all emphasis added):

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[...]
President Nixon: [Unclear]--“I want you to find me a man by noon. I won't be ready until 1--”until 12:30--”a recommendation of the man to work directly with me on this whole situation. Do you know what I mean? I've got to have--”I've got to have one. I mean, I can't have a high-minded lawyer like John Ehrlichman or, you know, [John] Dean or somebody like that. I want a son-of-a-bitch. I want somebody just as tough as I am for a change, just as tough as I was, I would say, in the [Alger] Hiss case, where we won the case in the press. These goddamn lawyers, you know, all whining around about, you know . . .
[...]
These guys don't understand. They have no understanding of politics. They have no understanding of public relations. John Mitchell is that way. John is always worried about --is it technically correct?-- Do you think, for Christ sakes, [that] the New York Times is worried about all the legal niceties? Those sons of bitches are killing them--”that are [unclear] are leaking to the press. This is what we've got to get--”I want you to shake these [unclear] up around here. Now, you do it. Shake them up. Get them off their Goddamn dead asses and say, --Now, this what we're talking about. We're up against an enemy, a conspiracy. They're using any means. [banging desk for emphasis] We are going to use any means. Is that clear?--
Did they get the Brookings Institute raided last night?
Haldeman: No, sir, they didn't.
President Nixon: No. Get it done. I want it done. [banging desk for emphasis] I want the Brookings Institute safe cleaned out, and have it cleaned out in a way that makes somebody else [unclear].
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Much more after the jump.



Later, from the same conversation:
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President Nixon: But here’s the thing. This is the way I want it. I have a project that I want somebody to take it just like I took the [Alger] Hiss case, the [Elizabeth] Bentley case, and the rest. And I’ll tell you what this takes. This takes 18 hours a day. It takes devotion and dedication and loyalty and devilishness such as you’ve never seen, Bob. I’ve never worked as hard in my life and I’ll never work as hard again because I don’t have the energy. But this is a hell of a great opportunity because here is what it is. I want to track down every goddamn leak there is and, you see—and here’s where John will recoil. I don’t—probably we, we’ll have to tell him. You probably don’t know what I meant when I said yesterday that we won the Hiss case in the papers. We did. I had to leak stuff all over the place.
Haldeman: Mm-hmm.
President Nixon: Because the Justice Department would not prosecute it. Hoover didn’t even cooperate until I leaked it out. It was won in the papers. John Mitchell doesn’t understand that sort of thing. He’s a good lawyer. It’s abhorrent to him. John Ehrlichman will have difficulty. But what I mean is we have to develop now a program, a program for leaking out information, for destroying these people in the papers. That’s one side of it—how to get at the conspiracy.
The other side of it is the declassification . . . declassification. And then leaking to or giving out to our friends the stories that they would like to have such as the Cuban confrontation. Get what I mean? Let’s have a little fun. There’s a . . . Let me tell you why the declassification of previous years helps us. [Unclear.] It takes the eyes off of Vietnam. It gets them thinking about the past rather than our present problems. You get the point?
Haldeman: Yeah. Absolutely.
[...]
President Nixon: It’s not about what we’re doing. Now, you see what we need? I need somebody . . . I need really rather than a worker (just to give you the personality type) oh, like [John C.] Whitaker who’ll work his butt off and do it honorably. I need a— I really need a son-of-a-bitch like Huston who will work his butt off and do it dishonorably. Do you see what I mean? Who will know what he’s doing and will—I want to know, too. And I’ll direct him myself. I’ll pitch it. I know how to play this game.
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It's starting to look like Hunt; this is the President and Haldeman in the afternoon:

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Bob Haldeman: --”I explored back with [Charles] Colson, the guy he mentioned, this former CIA guy [Howard Hunt]. And I talked--”I raised him with [Richard] Allen. Allen doesn't know him, he doesn't think, but he's not sure, he [unclear] he might. And he said that kind of guy might be better, a guy with the CIA experience. The problem there would be he is known in the intelligence establishment and you'd send out some waves. I said, --What the hell difference does that make? As soon as this guy gets started, he's going to send out waves no matter what.-- And he said, --Yeah, that's right.--
President Nixon: But we haven't . . . I would still put down for consideration the possible pattern here of really putting the damn job--”and I just wonder if we should put Colson in charge of it, and then putting in with him--”and put him in charge of a team. And, for example, [Tom Charles] Huston--”taking--”I realize Huston is no good unless it's something that he really believes in, but put him--”couldn't you bring him in to put him in [unclear] he did believe in, you know, and say, --All right, this is yours, Tom.--
Haldeman: He'd have to be in as a lone operator.
President Nixon: Yeah. Right.
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Later in the same conversation:
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President Nixon: When [John] Mitchell leaves, as Attorney General, we're going to be better off, in my view. I think that--”I think that--”I think that while he is less [unclear], one thing about [Richard] Kleindienst, he has got more of an instinct for the jugular and is less influenced by, you know, the press and responsibility, and all this. John is just too damn good a lawyer, you know. He's a good strong lawyer. It just repels him to do these horrible things. But they've got to be done. We've got to fight this thing. [Unclear]--”
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So that's July 1. I think I'll pass on making comments, other than to say that I hope some of you find this stuff as fascinating as I do -- and to note that as soon as Hunt was arrested a year later, Nixon of course knew exactly who Hunt was and what he could talk about. More soon.

4 comments:

  1. Interesting that he acknowledges that he needs a "son of a bitch" and someone who is "dishonest". I'm not sure whether that non-delusional thinking about what kind of person it would take is kind of comforting (given the delusion I have grown up with from Republicans) or a little more disturbing than if he could simply convince himself that these weren't bad things he was asking them to do.

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  2. I find these posts fascinating. Thank you for doing them.

    At the time (71) I was 19 and living in DC. Some of my pals were the children of people only a couple degrees away from some of those names. By summer of 71 I already had heard that Nixon cursed nonstop. I don't remember when the darker rumors started, but soon after they did it kind of dried up because it had become scary, not fun.

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  3. The notion that John Mitchell was just too ethical, dammit, for Nixon's tase I find highly amusing.

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  4. I followed Watergate closely at the time, and somehow I, too, did not realize what paragons of ethics we had in John Mitchell and John Erlichmann. There were giants in the earth in those days.

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