I'm confused. The President, Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Dean have now talked through the situation repeatedly, but never seem to have come up with a viable plan that gets everyone who's 'on the same team' off the hook. If there's no such possibility, then what are they doing? These are clever and highly experienced politicians- they must have SOME plan, no?!It's a really good question.
Surely, at some point someone needs to get the Committee to Re-Elect guys into a quiet, indefinably yet indisputably sinister room, and explain to them that either way they're going down, but if they take the rap they'll be taken care of, and a Republican president won't be impeached?
I think there are a few ways to think about it.
One is that perhaps they really didn't take seriously the possibility that the president could really lose his job over it. A more serious scandal, sure, but actual impeachment and/or indictment and conviction? Maybe they never really thought it would come to it. And they weren't nuts if that's what they were thinking, I don't think. Yes, Nixon had (almost?) certainly committed felonies before the break-in and without a doubt had committed felonies after, but Nixon was hardly the first president to commit felonies.
The second is that while it would certainly be nice for the White House staff if the campaign took the fall, it's not entirely clear it would be good for Nixon. Both in and out of the White House during this part of it, people are saying that if Mitchell knew, everyone would assume that Nixon must have knows as well. Now, if Mitchell and CRP had claimed to be on their own, at least the White House might have been spared from the Plumbers stuff, but still, it would have been bad.
A third is that, well, John Mitchell seems to have just scared them. Why? I don't know. But we have numerous times when someone was supposed to lay down the law to Mitchell only to freeze and fail to do it. It reminds me a bit of how Newt choked every time he walked into a meeting with Clinton...you look for a rational explanation, but maybe it's not rational.
A fourth is that, even as late as March, they're still often thinking about Watergate in terms of public relations (and never forget that Bob Haldeman's training is an ad agency account executive). Yes, Nixon and Ehrlichman and Dean are lawyers and really should have realized the legal jeopardy they're all in, but politicians and their staff are also trained to think in terms of spin, and that's part of what's happening here. Mitchell would be a huge spin disaster for the administration, not something to hope for.
And a fifth is a combination of John Dean's lament that they aren't criminals and therefore don't know how to do those things along with the fact that they were, you know, running the presidency during all of this: we shouldn't discount the possibility of a clean mistake.
Last one? They really don't have any good options. They can't force Mitchell and Magruder (and everyone else with knowledge) over at the committee to lie for them, and even trying to get them to leaves them open to the blackmail they're already getting from Hunt and the rest of the gang. One way to read the whole thing is that the jig was really up as soon as the men were caught at the Watergate.
So that's some speculation around it, but it really is a very good question.
Meanwhile, you should be able to get the complete series by clicking on the "Watergate" label beneath any item, but if you want to catch up and don't want to scan through in reverse order, I figured I'd put all the links together. So here's the Watergate series from when the cover-up begins to unravel in 1973.
January 2 February 2 March 1 April 2
January 3 February 3 March 2
January 6 February 7 March 6
January 8 February 9 March 7
January 13 February 10 March 8
January 30 February 13 March 11
February 16 March 12
February 20 March 13
February 21 March 14
February 22 March 15
February 28 March 16