Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 13, 1973

Back in Washington, after the weekend planning session in California. Haldeman says that on the plane back, on the 12th, the president "asked for a general rundown on the Watergate thing, and seemed to be in agreement with our overall approach as covered on the weekend." Which really doesn't amount to much, however.

Meanwhile, on the 13th, Haldeman reports that now Nixon is "inclining to go along with Gray at the FBI." That would indeed turn out to be an important decision.

Also, Chuck Colson is now leaving the White House and the government, on the theory that he'll be more valuable to Nixon outside than in. On the 13th and 14th the two of them discuss Watergate some more -- in particular the idea that perhaps they should get ahead of the Senate by having John Mitchell accept responsibility for ordering the break-in. It's a very attractive plan for not only Colson, but Haldeman and Ehrlichman (and presumably Dean) as well; if the campaign takes full responsibility for Watergate, and assuming Hunt and Liddy would still stay silent about the Plumbers, then the role of the White House in any crimes would still be covered up. Yes, it would still throw suspicion at the president because Nixon and Mitchell were close, but at least it's a plausible firewall.The problem with it, however, as it's been since June, is that there's still no real reason for Mitchell (and his deputy Magruder) to take the bullet for Haldeman and the rest of them at the White House.

Regardless: whatever the advantages of having a more plausible cover story (given the evidence, which made a rogue Liddy/Hunt operation implausible) back in June, by February there's probably too many people involved in the "post" activities -- the cover-up -- to make it work. At least, to make it work politically. Still, at least it would have had the advantage of pushing investigations away from Hunt and Liddy. Because through them are not just Watergate, but the Plumbers, and the difference between an out-of-control campaign and an out-of-control government.

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