Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June 12, 1972

George McGovern had a good day on June 6, winning California and emerging as the likely Democratic nominee -- still by no means certain, but now really likely. Which was good news indeed for Richard Nixon. Gallup, on June 12, had Nixon leading 53 to 34 over McGovern. All of a sudden, the election looked like a cakewalk.

Inside the White House, Chief of Staff Haldeman's notes on June 7 and 9 are about the attacks they're readying for McGovern. The largest remaining risk, other than a surprise reversal at the Democratic Convention just one month away, is that George Wallace will still mount a third-party run, and Nixon on June 12 is telling Haldeman to find out whether Wallace will physically be able to do it -- and if so, to approach Wallace and try to make a deal to keep him off the ballot.

And the operation to get information out of the tap at the DNC is still going on, with little to show for it. There are, however, a number of different versions of what came next during the week leading up to the 17th, and who authorized it (and here, I'm depending as usual on Emery). Re-election security man and burgler James McCord says that there were more documents he wanted to photograph. Gordon Liddy says that Jeb Magruder, deputy director of the campaign, sent them back to fix the bug and to go through Lawrence O'Brien's desk to see what O'Brien had on Nixon. Magruder says that he was just in the room when Liddy told Campaign Chair John Mitchell that he (Liddy) would go back in and fix the malfunctioning bug. Magruder also says that he was showing the reports to Gordon Strachan, Haldeman's go-between to the committee to re-elect -- and Liddy claims that Strachan had him to the White House to complain how useless the intelligence was, with Liddy responding that they intended to go back in and fix it. Strachan -- and Haldeman -- say none of that ever happened. Meanwhile, Liddy's partner in crime Howard Hunt said that he had opposed it so much that he had Liddy go back and argue against it twice, until Liddy told him that Mitchell was insisting.

None of this, I think, is all that important now, although it may have mattered at the time in terms of exactly who was guilty of exactly which crime. That the leadership of the campaign and the White House staff (and probably, although not certainly, the president) were criminals by this point is perfectly clear.

And meanwhile, the plan to go back in -- which meant summoning the gang from Miami again -- would also be accompanied, they planned, with another try at the McGovern campaign offices.

All of this despite that the need for intelligence was rapidly dissipating, and that it was more unclear than ever that all the surveillance in the world would get anything useful out of the O'Brien and the Democratic National Committee.


  1. ".....by this point is perfectly clear."

    Intentional Nixon joke?

  2. Didn't Democratic primary voters even take a glance at the polls? Most narratives of the campaign say that McGovern only imploded later in the campaign, around the time of the Eagleton affair. Guess not (unless such polls weren't available during the primary?). Was this the last time a candidate was chosen by a major party in total disregard to his electability?

    Or maybe, if you apply current political science theories to 1972, Humphrey would have barely improved over McGovern (ideology only docks you a couple points, right?). Which would mean that Humphrey would have done much worse in 72 than he did in 68. An election where he performed much better than the supposed Nixon landslide that is remembered in history--oddly enough, in retellings of this era, it seems like everyone under 30 was a McGovern volunteer, but no one will admit to voting for Humphrey.


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