Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 19, 1973

It's Monday, a relatively quite day on what will be one of the three or four biggest weeks of Watergate. Today's topic is only the fight over testifying on the Hill. From Haldeman's diary:


Got into the Ervin question with [White House press secretary Ron] Ziegler because Ervin was on TV yesterday saying he would have White House staff people who refused to testify arrested. And try to force the issue that way. The P told Ron he thought it was too early to reiterate the P's position regarding a separation of powers. But emphasized that this is not a case of refusal to cooperate or to furnish information, as Presidents in the past have done. Ours is a policy of complete cooperation. Ron should go on the attack regarding our total cooperation. Hit the (point that) sensational statements regarding forcing White House aides have obscured the central fact that we have cooperated and will continue to.


Somehow, the idea that the White House was going to win the spin war on this one just seemed removed from reality: with Ervin saying "testify" and Nixon saying, "No, they won't testify, and why won't anyone give us credit for our complete and total cooperation."

Just to review what's happening now. The Senate Judiciary Committee is calling Pat Gray back for what will be another three days of testimony in support (if that's the right word) of his nomination. Judge Sirica is planning sentencing for the seven Watergate defendants on Friday. Howard Hunt is threatening to blow if he's not immediately paid off; there's also talk that James McCord is "off the reservation." John Dean is handling that problem. He's also dealing with Gray, and he's being hurt by what Gray has been saying. Meanwhile, the Ervin Senate Watergate Committee is preparing for their public hearings, and both the Ervin Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee are fighting with the White House over whether White House staff will testify.

Dean has also started meeting on an almost daily basis with Richard Nixon to update him on Watergate, and Dean, along with pretty much everyone else, is desperately trying to figure out some way to get ahead of the terrible publicity they're already getting and that they know they'll continue to get.

And as always, it's worth remember that they're also trying to govern the nation, so the demands on the time and attention of many of the key figures are divided among many things; even now, Watergate is only one of them.

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