Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 29, 1972

Haldeman has a meeting with Mitchell, intending to ask him to resign from the campaign -- but Mitchell beats him to the punch, saying that he needs to step aside because of his wife, Martha. As Haldeman says in his diary: " That solved my having to raise the thing. I let it go in this instance and it worked out very well."

He then reports to the president about Mitchell, and about the FBI interview with Liddy:


Haldeman: They fired Liddy.

President Nixon: Huh?

Haldeman: They fired Liddy (unintelligible)...
Haldeman: They're not making any fuss about it. Nobody'll ask why they fired him unless he becomes identified. The FBI do have a line to him. They have questioned him and he didn't cooperate [...]

Haldeman: The thing that bothers me about this thing is that it's a time bomb. They don't have to keep it alive. They can let it go under the surface. They can investigate until they get something else, and then lob it out whenever they feel like it.

President Nixon: What, what do we do, then?

Haldeman: I don't know. I don't think there's a damn thing we can do.


Later that night, the president gave a press conference. Not a single Watergate question, just short of two weeks after the break-in. So as far as that goes, it's going well so far for them, even as they realize how many ways they could get hurt.


  1. Jonathan - do you think the hand-wringing exposed in this conversation undermines Nixon's ultimate moral self-defense? That is, he didn't invent hardball politics, he simply gave as good as he got, etc. etc. I can't believe Nixon imagined that Truman or JFK or LBJ sat in the Oval Office fretting over which live hand grenade their "enemies" at the Justice Department were going to lob out....

    Then again, maybe he did imagine that. He was one odd duck.

    Anyway, thanks for this amazing thread. Seeing this unfold in real time is a fascinating experience.

    1. Oh, certainly. He's always thinking of himself as the oppressed little guy who, whatever he does, isn't doing nearly as much as LBJ and JFK did -- in his thinking, he was practically forced to do it. And of course LBJ had the same resentment going, quite a bit of it directed at the Kennedys. None of it is very attractive at all. It's much to the credit of Reagan and Clinton, that despite also coming from nothing, neither of them wallowed in that sort of thing. Obama too, I suppose.

      The best thing I've read on Nixon's personality is the Garry Wills book, which I highly recommend.

    2. I'm curious how much of that self-pitying that LBJ and Nixon engaged in was due to neither having attended selective universities.

      I'm not as familiar with LBJ, but the accounts I've read of Nixon indicate his peers thought he was very bright. The limited I've read about LBJ indicates similar things. The self-pitying may have come from a resentment that they couldn't attend those universities due to a lack of financial resources and growing up an environment that didn't make clear that was a possibility along with the deep self-doubt both men felt.

      Still, Reagan didn't attend those universities and wasn't obsessed with what the Princetons thought of him.


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