Saturday, June 18, 2011

June 18, 1971

The White House remains focused on the Pentagon Papers, as Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman says in his diary entry for the day.

One conversation for your weekend reading pleasure:


Haldeman: The Santa Monica Outlook has a big story on how Henry used to spend a lot of time at this guy’s [Ellsberg's] apartment. Henry says he’s never been to the guy’s apartment.
President Nixon: Who has this story?
Haldeman: Santa Monica Outlook-—at his apartment in Santa Monica. A neighbor says he’s—-she, I guess it’s a woman—says she saw Henry Kissinger there frequently. [a38:35]
[There is a pause of approximately seven seconds.]
President Nixon: [a38:42] Henry must be torn on the Jewish business. Everyone of them is a Jew. [Leslie] Gelb. Ellsberg.
Haldeman: Henry doesn’t back off of this one at all, though. I mean, he is—
President Nixon: Oh, I know.
Haldeman: -—passionately. His argument is we’ve got to fight [unclear—-possibly “seem too weak”]. [a39:03]


I'm not going to run these every day, but several people said they enjoyed the first one, so I'll keep going.

I should do a bit of context-setting...the Pentagon Papers stuff is important because it basically leads in a direct line to a lot of criminal activity. In particular, the White House set up an internal operation to stop further leaks and to smear Ellsberg, an operation that would become known as the "Plumbers," and included eventual Watergate principles Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy. So first things first: it's crucial to see just how big a deal the Papers were to Nixon and, therefore, to his chief advisers. Ellsberg had certainly committed a crime, and the normal processes of government were already at work preparing to prosecute him for it -- but for the president, this wasn't going to be nearly enough.

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