Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 17, 1973

Sorry, I ducked out and took a little break after all the craziness of March and April. But back to it now.

What's been happening?

In early May, the "Kissinger taps" were back -- it turned out that Daniel Ellsberg had in fact been recorded, despite all previous denials. That was, finally, the last straw for Judge Byrne: he dismissed all charges against Ellsberg.

Vernon Walters, it turns out, wrote a series of memos about the White House approach to the CIA in the early days of the cover-up; now the prosecutors are preparing to interview him. The White House has the memos, which certainly implicate Haldeman and Ehrlichman; Walters, of course, doesn't know about the taped conversations in the Oval Office setting it in motion, and neither does Al Haig -- although it's not clear exactly what Haig knows and what he at least suspects. Haig and Nixon talk at great length about the Walters memos during the second week of May, with Nixon making the case for it all being innocent, and Haig at times joining in but at times admitting it's bad for Haldeman and Ehrlichman.

There's also, during that week, press stories alleging personal financial irregularities by Nixon. That's going to dog him all the way through; it's tangential to the real story of Watergate, but it's out there, too.

Elliot Richardson is up for confirmation as Attorney General. In doing so, he's stressing his independence -- which makes Nixon, and the White House, increasingly worried, especially with the special prosecutor not yet named. They scheme some to try to influence it, but as Haig says to Nixon on May 15, Richardson wants to be "Mr. Clean."

There's also continuing worries about loyalty from his now former men. John Ehrlichman, in particular, is a constant source of stress; there's a rumor, for example, at one point that Ehrlichman is going to go after Colson.

On the 16th, they learn that Dean has a copy of the Huston plan with Haldeman's approval -- and Haldeman's memo saying that Nixon approved it. That takes a day scrambling, with Nixon's new lawyer Fred Buzhardt eventually learning that Hoover had spike the Huston plan before it actually ever went into effect.

They're still working on the Huston plan on the 17th, but this is also the day that the Senate Watergate Committee begins its televised hearings. They don't know what they're in for:


Buzhardt: They will bore...He's our biggest asset. Ervin.

President Nixon: Why?

Buzhardt:  He conducts terrible hearings, Mr. President.

President Nixon: Terrible person to preside?

Buzhardt: Yes. He stutters, he stammers -- you can't understand his questions. He garbles them up. It's  -- he is not, you know [...] One of the next mistakes he's making is he's going to let the members of the committee only do the interrogation. He is not going to let his counsel interrogate --

President Nixon: Thank God.

Buzhardt: I breathed a sigh of relief when I found this out....




Ziegler: I just watched a few minutes of that committee. I'll tell you, it is going to be a farce.

President Nixon: Why?

Ziegler: Sam Ervin is just a pompous, fat...


And again in the afternoon:


Buzhardt: The Ervin Committee grinds on. They're down to the arresting officer now and going through the tedium of that.

President Nixon: Somebody told me it's a very dull show. I haven't looked at it.

Buzhardt: It is a very dull show.


It is not, it turns out, a dull show; Sam Ervin is not, it turns out, a buffoon.

(And here's a highlights reel from PBS)

1 comment:

  1. I thought there were a couple of interesting posts on Dems and press coverage TPM. This one
    And this one

    The question I have is if the Democrats just don’t know how to get these stories in the paper or does the Washington press core have an anti-liberal bias, the ignores these stories despite the best efforts of the Democrats?


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