Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 2, 1971

Let me add a bit of context that I haven't mentioned yet. Remember that Vietnam is still going on -- American casualties are finally falling, but there are still going to be about 2400 killed there in 1971. Anti-war protests are also continuing, and in some cases really are violent -- this is the era of the Weathermen.

It's also worth noting that Kissinger was about to take his first, secret trip to China in July, so it's not entirely surprising that leaks and secrecy were high on the administration's agenda.

None of that, of course, excuses anything that Richard Nixon and his men did, but it is very much part of the context of it.

In the morning, Nixon meats with Haldeman and Colson. I'm not going to give you much of it...there's a lot that's just repeating what's been going on. But I want to emphasize what the president says to them:


President Nixon: ...Now the most significant story in there, Bob, is the one that -- where Ellsberg says there were a number of people that worked with him. Did you see that? I talked to [J. Edgar] Hoover last night and Hoover is not going after this case as strong as I'd like. He's talking about -- I don't know. There's something dragging. There's something dragging him. He things that -- I don't know what it is. Well, you can't tolerate it.
Haldeman: If I call him [Hoover] now and say just an aside -- you didn't tell me to call him. I'm telling him I just wanted him to know that in talking about this you're very concerned. You don't have the feeling the FBI is really pursuing this at a -- as slow as fish.
President Nixon: Yeah. Particularly the conspiracy side. I want to go after everyone. I'm not so interested in Ellsberg, but we have got to go after everybody who's a member of this conspiracy. This is a conspiracy and I've got to go after it.

There's a lot going on...Ehrlichman says (per Emery) that on July 2 Nixon gave a specific order for Ehrlichman to organize what turned out to be the Plumbers. Nixon is also trying to get a Congressional committee to hold hearings directed at Ellsberg, to unearth the "conspiracy" to divulge government secrets.

Also, on July 2, the Ellsberg prosecutors (because remember, Ellsberg had in fact committed a crime, and regardless of Nixon's determination that he should be tried in the press, there's actually a real, normal prosecution in the courts underway) asked the FBI, again according to Emery, for any wiretaps on which Ellsberg appeared. In fact, Ellsberg had been recorded quite a few times in the "Kissinger taps", wiretaps of reporters and suspected government leakers and others maintained beginning in 1969. The problem here is that the rules of discovery require the government to make such information available to the court (and the defense) in criminal of the fun ironies in Watergate is that Ellsberg's prosecution would eventually be undermined (and the indictment dismissed) because of all the various things they were up to.

Also, the Jews, again. I'll refer you to Jack Shafer's piece about the general topic, from last year, where you'll find a nice quotation from July 2.


  1. Don't know why I always play Devil's Advocate with Nixon around here, not really much of a Nixon fan, but the Podhoretz quote in the Shafer piece piqued my interest, so here goes again...

    Podhoretz said that Nixon "was the kind of anti-Semite who thought that Jews were smarter than everybody else... His anti-Semitism consisted of resentment of Jews for being liberals and hating him". This calls to mind Nixon's paranoia, and got me thinking about the many odd parallels between Nixon and Gore, parallels that are not oft discussed.

    Both were young VPs in administrations that reaped the benefits of significant peace dividends. Both surely expected to keep the good times going by stepping over from VP to the Presidency. Both faced iffy opponents with massive baggage in their first Presidential general election. Both had their inevitable Presidential win stolen in heartbreaking fashion.

    The narrative in the paragraph above would seem to be a good incubator for paranoia, and while Gore followed a different post-election-tragedy path than Nixon, it doesn't seem like he's entirely well, does it? When the 'Gore in '04' movement attempted to draft him, it was steeped in outrage and paranoia at the 'stolen' 2000 election, yes? Might that sort of thing rub off on a sitting President down the road?

    The comparison is full of flaws. For one thing, Nixon was already paranoid in the Eisenhower years, the same can't quite be said about Gore. For another, the primary thief of the 1960 election was the elder Richard Daley, hardly a Jew.

    My minor defense is this: being VP for 8 years in a peaceful, prosperous White House, groomed to follow in the good times, then losing to an outsider in heartbreaking fashion, must be terrible to endure. Gore hasn't worn it particularly well; we should perhaps be a bit sympathetic of Nixon if it drove him crazy as well.

  2. (I should clarify: the argument that Gore seems not to be doing well is obviously net of the Nobel Peace Prize, which is certainly impressive. In the couple years since, while the climate change issue has been heating up, Gore has been curiously absent from the discussion, dealing instead - it appears - with various personal matters).


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