The president and his political director talk over in Nixon's executive office building office:
Colson: You know, I've still got a memo here that I sent over to that gathering place across the street in January telling us everything Muskie's doing. And I talked to them three weeks ago and they said they were taping everything, audio, and they were using video wherever we can...And they weren't. They were just doing Humphrey in California ....
President Nixon: Particularly when we now saw that McGovern might well be nominated. Well, anyway, they've got it now? They've got it covered?
Colson: Well, they said so [...]
President Nixon: For example, that business of the McGovern watch, it just has to be -- it has to be around the clock [...]
President Nixon: You see, because he -- could I just suggest this? Could we, for example, hire even like -- why the hell don't we hire Dick, I don't know whether Dick Perlasky, or a young reporter. Could [White House staffer Kenneth] Clawson find a good young reporter and say he's going to do a book. Teddy White does them...And he just goes over there with his press pass. He doesn't open his mouth, but he just covers the sonofabitch like a blanket.
Colson: I've got a good man to use for that.
President Nixon: I would do it
Two points here. One is that here we are, with Nixon up twenty on McGovern (who he's even now not convinced will really be the nominee, is he?), Nixon is still absolutely driven, and driving those around him, to produce more information. That's very much how Nixon thinks; you beat the other side by knowing more than they do, by gathering as much as you can and squeezing something useful out of it that someone else might have overlooked.
The other is that the President of the United States of America is absolutely interested in petty, low-level operations, down to the detail level. These excerpts (chosen by Kutler) are from a late afternoon meeting with Colson in which, according to the presidential library's log, they discussed Muskie, McGovern, someone named Robert, Mitchell, unions and specific union leaders, Haldeman, Mitchell again, Clawson, Mitchell, McNamara, Mitchell, McGovern, the Secret Service, Victor Lasky, White, campaign money, Mitchell, Bryce Harlow, someone named Bob, Duane Andreas, Jeno F. Paulucci, and someone named Ellsworth.
So what does that tell us? Lots of detail, but nothing, of course, about the Hunt/Liddy operation that's going on right then. We know that Colson, at least, knows something about it (but we don't know that he specifically knows that there were break-ins and ongoing taping, or that another break-in is going to happen). Did Colson know, but keep the information from the president? Did Nixon know, through Haldeman, but didn't want to share the information with Colson? Was Nixon inhibited by the tape rolling, although he certainly incriminated himself on the White House taping system many, many times. Did it just not come up?
I don't know...the Richard Nixon I hear on these tapes just doesn't seem like a president who wouldn't be hounding his staff constantly about what was going on with the Democrats, and you would think that the answer would have come back (from Haldeman at least, if not Colson) that was intended to impress on Nixon just how ruthlessly they were playing the game. And yet, it never comes up, at least not on the tapes.
But the time for prior knowledge is ending. It's almost time to go back into the Watergate.