Codswallop 201

Number 6 in a series

I am signed up to receive mailings from Hillsdale College, especially Larry Arnn, current college president. Hillsdale has a long tradition, but for the present day any distinction between the college and a right-wing boot camp is difficult to discern. Their newsletter Imprimis is a go-to page for defense of the Trump presidency.

Imprimis recaps talks by guest speakers, a recent being John Marini, described on the site as a “professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno. He earned his B.A. at San Jose State University and his Ph.D. in government at the Claremont Graduate School.” His talk, delivered at the college on 11 September 2018, exemplifies Hillsdale’s penchant for propagandizing. It is a thinly veiled defense of a corrupt administration—that is if by “thinly veiled” you mean “full frontal.” Here are some excerpts. But first the headline:

Politics by Other Means: The Use and Abuse of Scandal

Truth be known, this is what caught my eye when it popped up in my email. For the past two years and more the combination of “politics” and “scandal” has equated to “Donald Trump.” You have to wait until the end before this becomes hammer obvious, but follow the link above and read the entire piece.

Nearly every political administration has potential scandal lying just below the surface. There are always those in government who seek to profit privately from public service, and there are always those who will abuse their power. All governments provide the occasion for scoundrels of both kinds. But the scandals they precipitate rarely erupt into full-blown crises of the political order. What differentiates the scandals that do?

Professor Marini is molding the mindset of the reader. There are scandals, and there are scandals, but watch out when scandal is wielded toward political ends. We are beginning to think there is a scandal that is like any other scandal, but this scandal is being amplified for political purposes.

Many great scandals arise not as a means of exposing corruption, but as a means of attacking political foes while obscuring the political differences that are at issue.

We suspect Professor Marini is going to show us an example.

The key to understanding how this works is to see that most political scandals, sooner or later, are transformed into legal dramas. As legal dramas, scandals become understood in non-partisan terms. The way in which they are resolved can have decisive political impacts, but those in charge of resolving them are the “neutral” prosecutors, judges, and bureaucrats who make up the permanent (and unelected) government, not the people’s elected representatives. To resort to scandal in this way is thus a tacit admission that the scandalmongers no longer believe they are able to win politically. To paraphrase Clausewitz, scandal provides the occasion for politics by other means.

We are being reminded that if you see somebody making issue of a scandal, it could be for political purpose and not for reasons of morality and good government.

He cannot go forward without touching on the scandals of Richard Nixon.

Richard Nixon won a landslide electoral victory in 1972 and was removed from office less than two years later. The Watergate scandal then became the model for subsequent political scandals, down to the current day. How and why did Watergate come about and what did it mean?

I was there. Richard Nixon won by a landslide. Even I voted for him, but for nefarious reasons. By summer of 1972 it was obvious to me that Nixon would not serve out his term, and I cast my vote as part of a devious scheme to embarrass the Republican Party. There’s more.

Professor Marini touches too heavily on Nixon’s 1972 landslide. The electoral vote was one of the most lopsided ever, 520 to 17 over George McGovern, but that is moderated (slightly) by the popular tally of 46,740,323 to 28,901,598. A trouncing, nonetheless. But that should have given Nixon a mandate. Professor Marini hints at that. Perhaps Nixon believed it, as well. Professor Marini digs down into the history leading up to this moment. He talks of the great shift driven by the election of 1964:

This dramatic centralization of power created a political reaction in the electorate that began pushing back against the Great Society policies of the time.

He talks of “centralization of power,” but the civil rights legislation passed under President Johnson was what stuck in the craw of American conservatives. Following the 1972 election it was, according to Marini, a political power play that brought down the president.

As we all know, Nixon’s intentions for his second term came to naught. American politics after Watergate were shaped by those who had engineered his downfall.

Political operatives engineered Nixon’s downfall. Really? I watched. It was Richard Nixon who engineered Richard Nixon’s downfall. I have the tapes. But for Marini, there is no end to defense of Richard Nixon:

It wasn’t until many years after Watergate that we learned the identity of the source of the leaks that led to Nixon’s removal. Deep Throat, the source for the reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at The Washington Post, turned out to be Mark Felt, a high-level FBI official who had access to all of the classified information pertaining to the investigation. Felt leaked that information selectively over the course of a year or more, helping to shape public opinion in ways the prosecution could not. Although Woodward and Bernstein were lauded as investigative reporters, they merely served as a conduit by which the bureaucracy undermined the authority of the elected chief executive. Geoff Shepard, a young member of Nixon’s defense team who has continued investigating Watergate using the Freedom of Information Act, has recently established as well that the prosecutors and judges involved in Watergate violated the procedural requirements that ensure impartiality, acting instead as partisans opposed to Nixon.

“[P]artisans opposed to Nixon?” Insert “the rule of law opposed to Nixon.”

After a great deal more, we ultimately get to what Marini has in mind.

We see today, in the two-year Mueller investigation and its aftermath, yet another attempt to destroy an anti-establishment president using a legal rather than political process of adjudication. The most notable difference between this scandal and Watergate is that President Trump has so far succeeded—largely through his relentless characterization of most of those in the media as dishonest partisans rather than objective reporters—in preventing the scandals surrounding him from being defined, by his enemies, in legal rather than political terms.

The guardians of the status quo in the permanent government and the media have defined past political scandals so successfully that a full and proper understanding of Watergate, for instance, is likely impossible now. It remains to be seen whether, in the end, they will succeed again today—whether the legend will again become fact, and they will print the legend.

Believe it if you will, professor, but from all appearances what you are serving up is codswallop, version 201.

This is your President speaking.

Number 107 in a long series

And now a few words from the President of the United States:

I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!

I am told that history does not repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes.

The Government You Paid For

Number 34 of a Series

I’ve been saying for some time that we get the government we pay for. For some reason, it seems, that the candidate who can spend the most money and put out the spiffiest campaign ads (and the most volume) gets the nod from American voters. We are a grand lot in that respect, an attention span clocked with an egg timer and the inclination to believe the most recent thing said, perhaps also in the loudest voice. Anyhow, we get what we pay for, so let’s see what we got.

This blog gets maybe a B- for originality. I don’t daily pile into my Toyota and beat up the pavement to chase original sources. I read the news online and catch a lot of other stuff streaming on the Internet. In all this, one source I avoided previously was MSNBC and Rachel Maddow in particular. Her program is not strictly news. It’s commentary, tending to be front-loaded, and not always impartial. However, since I committed to going the Full Monty on President Donald Trump I’m finding Maddow’s reports to be a rich source. And that’s what this is all about. I’m summarizing a presentation from last week. I will recap for those who don’t have the inclination to watch the video on YouTube, and I’m going to string the summarization with a hoard of screen shots from the show. This one might be titled Use the available federal machinery, because that’s the prominent take-away.

Maddow first reaches back nearly 50 years when Richard Nixon took office as President of the United States. One of the things the new President did was appoint Randolph Thrower to head up the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Things apparently went swimmingly for Mr. Thrower for nearly two years. Then he requested an audience with President Nixon to alert him that people on the White House staff were instructing him to audit named individuals.

The list of those needing an IRS audit was impressive. It included antiwar leaders, civil rights figures, journalists, members of Congress.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POarWqNJS18Also every Democratic senator up for re-election in 1970. This last bit gives some insight into the internals. The request for dirt on senators up for re-election in  1970 must have come many months prior to Mr. Thrower’s request for a meeting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POarWqNJS18At this point Mr. Thrower exhibited a bit of naiveté not often exhibited in the halls of government. He was certain the President did not know about these machinations, and he was sure the President would take swift action.

Was he ever wrong! Mr. Thrower did not get his audience. Mr. Nixon fired him. Mr. Thrower was not the right man Mr. Nixon wanted for the job after all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POarWqNJS18Needing somebody willing to do his bidding and needing somebody to replace Mr. Thrower, President Nixon next considered John Nolan, who was in charge of IRS tax policy and who would be a logical replacement. Well… no.

The conversation was recorded on audio tape in the Oval Office, and it went much like this:

President Nixon: I want to  be sure he’s a ruthless son of a bitch. That he will do what he’s told, that every income tax return I want to see I see. That he’ll go after our enemies and not go after our friends. It’s as simple as that. If he isn’t, he doesn’t get the job. We’ve got to have somebody like that for a change in this place.

Nixon Aide: Well that is the basis of which I inquired about Nolan. And I am assured that Nolan will not play that game.

The hunt needed to go on.

Anyhow, John Nolan was out, so the President had to look for another patsy. Attorney General John Mitchell recommended Johnnie Walters, who was then working for the Justice Department.

And that was that. On 11 September 1972 John Dean, who was counsel for the President, handed Mr. Walters the famous “enemies list.” The list had hundreds of names of people the President wanted the IRS to investigate.

Included were “staff members and leading contributors to  the flagging presidential campaign of Senator George McGovern.”

There were “about 200 prominent Democrats.”

Mr. Walters “put the list in a sealed envelope and kept it in a safe.” Apparently he never used the list. My thinking is that something like this is a cudgel you want to keep close by while you wait for the opportunity to use it.

He put the list in a sealed envelope and kept it in a safe until the following year, when he turned it over to congressional  investigators.

In 1973, as the investigation into the Watergate burglary and associated malfeasance, kicked into gear, John Dean disavowed his elegance to President Nixon, and he testified before the senate committee on the existence of the list and on the intent. He made available a copy of President Nixon’s plan to use the force of the United States Government to go after his political enemies. A portion of text from that plan is illustrative:

Stated a bit more bluntly.. how can we use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.

It’s been a long time (never) since anybody called me a lawyer, but I can see that such actions are in violation of several laws. These are the kinds of things that can get a president impeached and thrown out of office.

The White House audio recordings now became public knowledge, and excerpts are revealing of the length to which the President was willing to go to skewer political opponents and also those who challenged him:

President Nixon: I want to direct the most trusted person you have in the immigration service that they are to look over all the activities of the Los Angeles Times—all, underlined to see whether they are violating the wetback thing… Otis Chandler—I want him checked with regard to his gardener.

President Nixon: I understand he’s a wetback. We’re going after the Chandlers, every one, individually, collectively, their income tax. They’re starting this week. Every one of those sons of bitches. Is that clear?

A.G. John Mitchell: Yes sir.

President Nixon: Understand? Do it. Give me a report.

A.G. John Mitchell: Very well, sir.

And that kind of misuse of government power is what can get you removed from office and sent to jail. From the articles of impeachment.

Obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry.

Delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation … cover up, conceal and protect those responsible … making false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers … withholding  relevant and material evidence … surreptitious payment of substantial sums of money for the purpose of obtaining the silence or influencing the testimony of witnesses … making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements.

Using the powers of the office of the President of the United States …

endeavored to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service … confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed [sic] not authorized by law

He misused the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service … for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office.

In all of this, Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

The upshot was that President Nixon was not impeached. He resigned, and the presidency passed to Gerald Ford, who had been appointed Vice President on the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew following revelation of his own criminal activities. President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon and was rewarded by voters in 1976, who elected Jimmy Carter as President. John Dean went to jail. John Ehrlichman went to jail. John Mitchell went to jail

Anyhow, that stuff was 44 years ago. It’s good that we have put those days behind us, and we now stand in a brighter venue, possessed of higher expectations.

Not so fast.

One of the richest people in the world, actually the richest person in the world, is Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon and also owner of The Washington Post. It’s that last part that’s getting attention these days. Historically, Washington Post writing by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein was instrumental in bringing down President Nixon. It was a circumstance that got the Post on President Nixon’s list at the time. From all appearances, The Washington Post has not learned from the past, and this venerable institution is again on a President’s shit list.

A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions.These illegal leaks, like Comey’s, must stop!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POarWqNJS18You get the idea. The Washington Post is not currently Bezos’s cash cow. That would be Amazon, the largest on-line retailer in the world. What is a 21st century president to do now but go after the sacred cow.

In the past week, the president has turned what were sporadic and often private criticisms into a sustained volley of tweets against the company, often causing stock market fluctuations.

Fueling Mr. Trump’s ire is not so much Amazon, the online giant that is revamping the retail industry, but the company’s Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, people close to the White House say.

Mr. Trump sees Mr. Bezos’s hand in newspaper coverage he dislikes and is lashing out at Amazon as a proxy, these people said.

The president’s most recent flurry of tweets targeting Amazon has coincided with publication of Washington Post stories he dislikes.

What’s not clear is whether Mr. Trump will  take actions that would harm Amazon’s business interests.

… his new freedom is used to focus ever more closely on his perceived enemies and obsessions. Amazon, whose owner, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post, is currently the main target.

Now, according to four sources close to the White House, Trump is discussing ways to escalate his Twitter attacks on Amazon to further damage the company.

“He’s off the hook on this. It’s war,” one source told me. “He gets obsessed with something, and now he’s obsessed with Bezos,” said another source. “Trump is like, how can I f[uck] with him?”

According to sources, Trump wants the Post Office to increase Amazon’s shipping costs.

President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com…

Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission…

Brennan and Trump have met at the White House about the matter several times, beginning 2017…

The meetings have never appeared on Trump’s public schedule.

…according to three people familiar with their conversations…

Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms

Megan Brennan, the ghost of Randolph Thrower is trying to channel you. Update your resume. Mr. Trump, you need to check for messages from Richard Nixon’s ghost.

The fun is just getting started, and we are finally getting the government we paid for.

Death Spiral

A Sorry Chapter in American Politics

AllThePresidentsMen

Repeating myself:

Time to confess up. I have been wrong before. Saying I have been wrong before is not the same as saying I am wrong right now. Anyhow, I once got it very wrong. OK, maybe other times, as well, but very wrong this time.

It was 40 years ago. Today. Look it up on your calendar.

It was Saturday, and I was leaving my contract work in Austin, in my Dodge pickup with the radio on. The man doing the news was telling me that some men had been arrested overnight for burglary. They had been caught breaking into the Democratic Party offices at the Watergate Building in Washington, DC. The implication was obvious, even to me.

“That’s it,” I proclaimed loudly and with self-assurance, only to myself. “Now he’s gone too far. There goes the election.”

Richard Nixon was running for a second term as president, and it was looking as though his second term was going to be a lot like his first. Maybe not to some, but to me it seemed that Mr. Nixon was the person always ready to take a short cut, to tweak the rules when they became inconvenient. There was a history.

Imagine, if you will, how short-lived my glee was. There did not go the election. The debacle was to play out for another two years before the inevitable.  For nearly 26 more months America, and the rest of the world, watched in fascination as a corrupt administration crumbled under the weight of its institutional debauchery. We watched, and while we watched, two reporters for the Washington Post, dug at the facts and presented them relentlessly to the public in the face of horrific counter slashes by the President and his men.

And there’s the title:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Only it was All the President’s Men who could not put Humpty Dumpty together again. Richard Nixon, who had built his political career on cutting corners and devious measures, was Humpty Dumpty, and for a while in 1972 it appeared that Humpty Dumpty was cruising to an easy victory over Democratic Party challenger George McGovern. A little history will show why.

About a month prior to the Watergate break-in, Democratic candidate for the nomination George Wallace was gunned down in parking lot in Maryland. That left McGovern, a seemingly feckless liberal candidate, the only remaining opposition. Prior to that, the strongest Democratic candidate had been Senator Edmond Muskie, of Maine. However, a series of apparently contrived scandals, and Muskie’s inept responses, had knocked him out of the running. When it later emerged the political chicanery of the Nixon campaign had been behind these plots, the stories being published in The Washington Post by writers Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, took on added significance.

The saga begins:

JUNE 17, 1972. Nine o’clock Saturday morning. Early for the telephone. Woodward fumbled for the receiver and snapped awake. The city editor of the Washington Post was on the line. Five men had been arrested earlier that morning in a burglary at Democratic headquarters, carrying photographic equipment and electronic gear. Could he come in?

Woodward had worked for the Post for only nine months and was always looking for a good Saturday assignment, but this didn’t sound like one. A burglary at the local Democratic headquarters was too much like most of what he had been doing— investigative pieces on unsanitary restaurants and small-time police corruption. Woodward had hoped he had broken out of that; he had just finished a series of stories on the attempted assassination of Alabama Governor George Wallace. Now, it seemed, he was back in the same old slot.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 140-147). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

All through the summer of 1972 and well into the second year of Richard Nixon’s second term, we watched the drama unfold on television news. In Austin, Texas, where I lived at the time, The Washington Post was not the home-town newspaper, but Bernstein and Woodward’s reporting filtered out into the evening news, and longtime Nixon critics bathed in the flow, exchanging taunts with supporters and apologists. And finally, on the ninth of August in 1974, by which time I was living in another city, the drama crashed to a close, and former President Richard Nixon boarded an Air Force helicopter, out of American political life for good.

The book recaptures those dramatic times, and I’m going to post very few comments along with some pertinent excerpts. This should capture the flavor.

The five men arrested at 2: 30 A.M. had been dressed in business suits and all had worn Playtex rubber surgical gloves. Police had seized a walkie-talkie, 40 rolls of unexposed film, two 35-millimeter cameras, lock picks, pen-size tear-gas guns, and bugging devices that apparently were capable of picking up both telephone and room conversations.

“One of the men had $ 814, one $ 800, one $ 215, one $ 234, one $ 230,” Lewis had dictated. “Most of it was in $ 100 bills, in sequence. . . . They seemed to know their way around; at least one of them must have been familiar with the layout. They had rooms on the second and third floors of the hotel. The men ate lobster in the restaurant there, all at the same table that night. One wore a suit bought in Raleigh’s. Somebody got a look at the breast pocket.”

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 185-191). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Sturgis, an American soldier-of-fortune and the only non-Cuban among them, had been recruiting militant Cubans to demonstrate at the Democratic national convention, according to several persons. One Cuban leader told Bernstein that Sturgis and others whom he described as “former CIA types” intended to use paid provocateurs to fight anti-war demonstrators in the streets during the national political conventions.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 254-257). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Woodward called the Mullen public-relations firm and asked for Howard Hunt. “Howard Hunt here,” the voice said. Woodward identified himself. “Yes? What is it?” Hunt sounded impatient. Woodward asked Hunt why his name and phone number were in the address books of two of the men arrested at the Watergate.

“Good God!” Howard Hunt said. Then he quickly added, “In view that the matter is under adjudication, I have no comment,” and slammed down the phone.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 331-335). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Woodward called Ken W. Clawson, the deputy director of White House communications, who had been a Post reporter until the previous January. He told Clawson what was in the address books and police inventory, then asked what Hunt’s duties at the White House were. Clawson said that he would check.

An hour later, Clawson called back to say that Hunt had worked as a White House consultant on declassification of the Pentagon Papers and, more recently, on a narcotics intelligence project. Hunt had last been paid as a consultant on March 29, he said, and had not done any work for the White House since. “I’ve looked into the matter very thoroughly, and I am convinced that neither Mr. Colson nor anyone else at the White House had any knowledge of, or participation in, this deplorable incident at the Democratic National Committee,” Clawson said.

The comment was unsolicited.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 338-344). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Woodward had merely asked what Hunt was doing for the White House. Clawson, on his own, jumped to denial of White House involvement in the burglary. The political turnstile began to swing.

The next day, Democratic Party chairman O’Brien filed a $ 1 million civil damage suit against the Committee for the Re-election of the President. Citing the “potential involvement” of Colson in the break-in, O’Brien charged that the facts were “developing a clear line to the White House” and added: “We learned of this bugging attempt only because it was bungled. How many other attempts have there been and just who was involved? I believe we are about to witness the ultimate test of this administration that so piously committed itself to a new era of law and order just four years ago.”

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 355-359). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

If you were like me in those days, you marveled at the likes of Attorney General John Mitchell. The Republican Party came into power in 1968 and campaigned again in 1972 on a platform of “Law and Order.” With ensuing proposals for the likes of “preventive detention” we began to wonder whose law and what order.

An attorney in Washington had said he could positively identify Frank Sturgis as one of the several men who had attacked Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg outside a memorial service for the late FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in May. One suspect’s address book contained a rough sketch of hotel rooms that were to be used as headquarters by Senator McGovern at the Democratic convention. An architect in Miami had said that Bernard Barker had tried to get the blueprints of the convention hall and its air-conditioning system. Hunt’s boss at the Mullen firm, Robert Bennett, had been the organizer of about 100 dummy campaign committees used to funnel millions of dollars in secret contributions to the President’s re-election campaign. McCord had been carrying an application for college press credentials for the Democratic convention when he was arrested. He had recently traveled to Miami Beach. Some of the accused burglars from Miami had been in Washington three weeks before their arrest, when the offices of some prominent Democratic lawyers in the Watergate office building were burglarized.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 406-414). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Pieces began to fall into place. A pattern of statements followed by denials began to emerge. It was a pattern that was to continue almost to the end.

Woodward called Ken Clawson and told him about Bernstein’s conversation with the librarian. When Clawson called back, he said he had talked with Mrs. Schleicher. “She denies that the conversation [with Bernstein] took place. She said she referred you to the press office both times.” Hunt, he said, had never received any White House assignment dealing with Senator Kennedy. “He could have been doing research on his own,” said Clawson. “You know, he wrote forty-five books.” Howard Hunt wrote spy novels.

Bernstein called the former administration official and was told, “The White House is absolutely paranoid about Kennedy.” The President, White House chief of staff H. R. Haldeman and Colson had been “obsessed” with the idea of obtaining information that could damage a Kennedy candidacy.

Bernstein and Woodward wrote a story reporting that Hunt had been investigating Kennedy while employed at the White House. The importance of the story, the reporters were thinking, was that Hunt was no ordinary consultant to the White House, but a political operative.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 454-462). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The money trail began to unravel.

The Mexican checks were exactly as the Times had described them— each was drawn on a different American bank and endorsed on the reverse side with an illegible signature, directly above a typed notation: “Sr. Manuel Ogarrio D. 99-026-10.”

But there was a fifth check, for $ 25,000. It was slightly wider than the others, and was dated April 10. Bernstein copied it, as he had the other four, just as if he were drawing a facsimile. It was a cashier’s check, drawn on the First Bank and Trust Co. of Boca Raton, Florida, No. 131138, payable to the order of Kenneth H. Dahlberg. Dardis returned to the room as Bernstein finished copying. The $ 25,000 had been deposited on April 20, along with the four Mexican checks, making a total deposit of $ 114,000. Four days later, Barker had withdrawn $ 25,000. The remaining $ 89,000 had been withdrawn separately.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 597-603). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The theme that ran the length of the scandal was the large amount of money involved, often in cash, untraceable. It was to be the key to the administration’s involvement at the highest level.

“Hundreds of thousands of dollars in unaccounted cash,” the GAO man said one day. “A slush fund of cash,” he said the next. “A rat’s nest behind the surface efficiency of computerized financial reporting,” the third. With each day that Woodward did not write a story, the investigator felt freer to talk to him. Fitting these remarks together with another investigator’s, Woodward was becoming convinced that the cash “slush fund” was the same “convention security money” Bernstein had heard about early in July. The fund, which totaled at least $ 100,000, included the money from Barker’s bank account obtained from cashing Dahlberg’s check, according to the investigator.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 699-704). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

“It’s called ‘laundering,’” Dardis began. “You set up a money chain that makes it impossible to trace the source. The Mafia does it all the time. So does Nixon, or at least that’s what this guy who’s the lawyer for Robert Allen says. This guy says Stans set up the whole thing. It was Stans’ idea. He says they were doing it elsewhere too, that Stans didn’t want any way they could trace where the money was coming from.”

Dardis said he had learned the whole story from Richard Haynes, a Texas lawyer who represented Allen. Haynes had outlined the Mexican laundry operation to Dardis this way:

Shortly before April 7, the effective date of the new campaign finance law, and the last day anonymous contributions could be legally accepted, Stans had gone on a final fund-raising swing across the Southwest. If Democrats were reluctant to contribute to the campaign of a Republican presidential candidate, Stans assured them that their anonymity could be absolutely ensured, if necessary by moving their contributions through a Mexican middleman whose bank records were not subject to subpoena by U.S. investigators. The protection would also allow CRP to receive donations from corporations, which were forbidden by campaign laws to contribute to political candidates; from business executives and labor leaders having difficulties with government regulatory agencies; and from special-interest groups and such underground sources of income as the big Las Vegas gambling casinos and mob-dominated unions. To guarantee anonymity, the “gifts,” whether checks, security notes or stock certificates, would be taken across the border to Mexico, converted to cash in Mexico City through deposit in a bank account established by a Mexican national with no known ties to the Nixon campaign, and only then sent on to Washington. The only record would be jealously guarded in Washington by Stans, kept simply to make sure the contributor would not be forgotten in his time of need.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 835-849). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

That’s how the story gets started. I will pass through a lot of the drama and touch on some climactic events.

In defense, the administration went on the offense. The point man was press secretary Ron Ziegler:

While they walked, Ron Ziegler was beginning his regular daily press briefing in the Executive Mansion. It began at 11: 48 A.M. After 10 minutes or so of discussion and announcements about the President’s campaign and speech schedule, a reporter asked: “Ron, has the FBI talked to Bob Haldeman about his part in allegedly managing a secret slush fund for political sabotage?” That began 30 minutes of denunciation of the Post.

ZIEGLER: “The answer to your question is no, they have not. . . . I personally feel that this is shabby journalism by the Washington Post. . . . I think this effort on the part of the Post is getting to the point, really, of absurdity. . . .

“The story and headline [“ Testimony Ties Top Nixon Aide to Secret Fund”] refers to a secret fund, a term developed exclusively, virtually exclusively, by the Washington Post, based again on hearsay and based again on information obtained from an individual that they again refuse to identify, anonymous sources. I am told [by John W. Dean III] that there is no such secret fund. . . . this story was denied, and yet they ran it as their lead story this morning, with a distorted headline that was based totally on hearsay and innuendo. . . .

“. . . it is a blatant effort at character assassination that I do not think has been witnessed in the political process in some time. . . .

“. . . I am not attacking the press at all. I have never done that in this position, but I am making some very direct observations about the Washington Post and suggesting that this is a political— and saying that this is a political effort by the Washington Post, well conceived and coordinated, to discredit this Administration and individuals in it.

“. . . Now, we have had a long run of these types of stories presented by this particular newspaper, a newspaper once referred to as a great newspaper, but I would, as I said before, suggest that the journalistic tactic being used here is shoddy and shabby and is a vicious abuse of the journalistic process.

“. . . I do not intend to in any way respond to these types of stories other than the way I have responded up to this point, and that is an unequivocal denial of the allegations put forth. . . .”

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 3048-3067). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The administration, taking Nixon’s lead, waged a continual war with the news media. News was often bad news for the administration, and the solution was not to fix problems, but to subvert the source. All this was old hat for Nixon:

A final “One last thing.” Glaring at the reporters, he spoke with tight lips and a fearsome scowl. “I leave you gentlemen now and you will now write it. You will interpret it. That’s your right. But as I leave you I want you to know—just think how much you’re going to be missing.” Now he brightened up, extended an open hand, and tried to smile. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference and it will be one in which I have welcomed the opportunity to test wits with you.” Actually, he had given the press no opportunity to ask questions. Instead, he said, “I hope that what I have said today will at least make television, radio, the press . . . recognize that they have a right and a responsibility, if they’re against a candidate, give him the shaft, but also recognize if they give him the shaft put one lonely reporter on the campaign who will report what the candidate says now and then.” Finally it was over. He gave an awkward wave, attempted another smile, and stalked out.

Mary McGrory of the Washington Star called it “exit snarling.”

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 13885-13893). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

That was at the conclusion of Nixon’s unsuccessful run for governor of California. From 1962 onward we all knew, or should have known, what to expect.

One of the saddest tragedies was the story of Donald Segretti:

He holds a B.S. in finance from the University of Southern California (1963) and a J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law (1966). While at USC he became associated with Dwight L. Chapin, Tim Elbourne, Ron Ziegler, Herbert Porter and Gordon C. Strachan, all of whom joined the “Trojans for Representative Government” group.

Dwight Chapin recruited Segretti to engage in acts of sabotage and harassment against political opponents in the 1972 election. He crisscrossed the country, spreading wads of cash from Nixon campaign coffers set aside for such purposes. At the height of the scandal he remained confused at the enormity of what he was engaged in.

Segretti was, by his own account, confused, scared, angry, and without friends. Bernstein found him likable, and his situation pathetic.

“I really want to tell the whole story and get this thing over with,” Segretti said. “I don’t understand how I got in over my head. I didn’t know what it was all about. They never told me anything except my own role. I had to read the papers to find out.”

They?

“The White House.”

Segretti was agitated about the inquiries made to his family, friends and acquaintances by the press, and by the investigators from Senator Edward Kennedy’s subcommittee.II “Kennedy is out for blood and I’m the one treading water and bleeding,” Segretti said. “Kennedy will tear me to shreds. Some people even asked my friends if I knew Arthur Bremer.”

Segretti’s eyes filled with tears. “How could anybody even ask something like that? It’s terrible. It’s horrible. I didn’t do anything to deserve that. What do people think I am? If that’s the kind of thing Kennedy gets into, that might just be the point where I say ‘Fuck the whole thing’ and get up and walk out and let them put me in jail. . . . I’ve been dragged through the mud, maligned— you’d think I was making bombs or something. I haven’t done anything illegal, or even that bad. My friends have been harassed, my parents, my girlfriends; my privacy has been invaded; my phone is tapped, it clicks all the time; people have been following me; everybody I ever telephoned has been bothered.”

Segretti’s naïveté was compelling. He traced most of his difficulties to the press. He was particularly angry with the New York Times and Newsweek for getting his phone records and badgering his family. So Meyers and Bernstein calculatedly dumped on the opposition.

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 3362-3376). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Yes, you have that right. Donald Segretti, who made it his job to play dirty tricks on people, harass them, embarrass them—this Donald Segretti could now not understand that people were getting his phone records and badgering his family. His involvement with the Nixon administration effectively ended his future as a successful attorney. “In 2000, Segretti served as co-chair of John McCain‘s presidential campaign in Orange County.”

Arthur Bremer was the man who attempted to murder George Wallace.

How about some irony?

The same afternoon, Spiro Agnew, on ABC’s Issues and Answers, offered a different opinion: “Journalistically reprehensible,” he said of the Post’s coverage in general, and described the Haldeman account as “a contrived story constructed out of two untruths attempting to tie this to the President.”

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 3274-3277). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Vice President Agnew was famous for attacks on liberals, and especially the liberal press:

Agnew was known for his scathing criticisms of political opponents, especially journalists and anti-war activists. Agnew would attack his adversaries with relish, hurling unusual, often alliterative epithets, some of which were coined by White House speech writers William Safire and Pat Buchanan, including “pusillanimous pussyfooters,” “nattering nabobs of negativism” (written by Safire) and “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.”[23] In a speech denouncing the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, he characterized the war’s opponents as “an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.”

And Agnew was the first to go. In 1973 it became known that, as governor of Maryland, he had sold his office, often to what seemed to be the lowest bidders. In the midst of the Watergate scandal he accepted a plea bargain that include his resignation from the office of Vice President, the first such under duress.

The revelation by White House internal security chief Alexander Butterfield that President Nixon had arranged to have all discussions in the Oval Office recorded on tape hit like a bomb going off in a wedding cake. When the tapes were obtained by prosecutors and played, they revealed a side of the President that upset the staunchest of Republicans.

An early assignment was to destroy the reputation of Daniel Ellsberg, who had provided the Pentagon Papers, a secret history of the Vietnam War, to the news media in 1971. Publication of the documents in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and eventually other newspapers had sent Nixon into rants and rages, recorded on his tapes, about Ellsberg, the antiwar movement, the press, Jews, the American left, and liberals in Congress— all of whom he conflated. Though Ellsberg was already under indictment and charged with espionage, the team headed by Hunt and Liddy broke into the office of his psychiatrist, seeking information that might smear Ellsberg and undermine his credibility in the antiwar movement.

“You can’t drop it, Bob,” Nixon told Haldeman on June 29, 1971. “You can’t let the Jew steal that stuff and get away with it. You understand?”

He went on: “People don’t trust these Eastern establishment people. He’s Harvard. He’s a Jew. You know, and he’s an arrogant intellectual.”

Nixon’s anti-Semitic rages were well known to those who worked most closely with him, including some aides who were Jewish. As we reported in our 1976 book, The Final Days, he would tell his deputies, including Kissinger, that “the Jewish cabal is out to get me.” In a July 3, 1971, conversation with Haldeman, he said: “The government is full of Jews. Second, most Jews are disloyal. You know what I mean? You have a Garment [White House counsel Leonard Garment] and a Kissinger and, frankly, a Safire [presidential speechwriter William Safire], and, by God, they’re exceptions. But Bob, generally speaking, you can’t trust the bastards. They turn on you.”

Ellsberg’s leak seemed to feed his prejudice and paranoia.

In response to suspected leaks to the press about Vietnam, Kissinger had ordered FBI wiretaps in 1969 on the telephones of 17 journalists and White House aides, without court approval. Many news stories based on the purported leaks questioned progress in the American war effort, further fueling the antiwar movement. In a tape from the Oval Office on February 22, 1971, Nixon said, “In the short run, it would be so much easier, wouldn’t it, to run this war in a dictatorial way, kill all the reporters and carry on the war.”

“The press is your enemy,” Nixon explained five days later in a meeting with Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to another tape. “Enemies. Understand that? . . . Now, never act that way . . . give them a drink, you know, treat them nice, you just love it, you’re trying to be helpful. But don’t help the bastards. Ever. Because they’re trying to stick the knife right in our groin.”

Woodward, Bob; Bernstein, Carl. All the President’s Men (Kindle Locations 5744-5764). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

And shortly it was all over.

Another sad figure in this debacle was press secretary Ron Ziegler. He had to get up every day and face hostile reporters, denying what was known to be true to everybody else in the room. When the truth became unavoidable he personally apologized to Bernstein and Woodward, but not before an excruciating stretch of humiliation he endured to serve his worthless boss. Who can ever forget the scene on television news as reporters pursued the President, who instructed Ziegler to turn back, face them, provide an explanation, hold them off. Then the President of the United States gave Ziegler a little shove, a little push, as one would a recalcitrant puppy.

A few years later I ran into Ziegler when I was at the Astrodome in Houston covering a motorcycle race. I got the idea he was there in some capacity of handling publicity for the event. He was introduced in the press room, and I had my camera. I could not bring myself to take a photo. He died in 2003.

The book was the inspiration for a movie of the same name that came out two years later, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.

Nixon Ascending

Books-NixonVol-1

I tell people there are ways you know you’re getting old. One way is when you find yourself in a history book—in Chapter 3. That’s about the way I feel regarding this historical account of Richard Nixon. I have personal memories of many of the events in the book.

Stephen E. Ambrose wrote a number of popular historical works, and I have reviewed a few of them:

This is Nixon: The Education of a Politician 1913-1962, the Kindle edition.

It took me several days to wade through this meticulous work, and I’m going to give it just a brief overview. It’s an introduction of the making of the politician Nixon we of the late 20th century came to know so well, and it’s his early life, before most of us were born, that is most informative. The remainder is, as I have noted, fresh memories from TV news.

Nixon came to my attention when I was a grade schooler in a small Texas town. He was making news, in the newspapers and also on that new-fangled television contraption. He was railing against communism and playing second fiddle to Joseph McCarthy, who was doing it better than all the rest.

Then came the elections of 1952, and General Eisenhower, hero of World War Two, was a candidate. Small town Texas in those days defined conservationism, and in those days it was the Democratic Party in the south that embodied conservatism. Eisenhower was running as a Republican, and I caught flak from my school chums for my I Like Ike button.

History-i-like-ike

Richard Nixon was Ike’s running mate, and things were going swimmingly, for a few days. Then the business about the Nixon slush fund hit the headlines, and Nixon was forced to salvage his candidacy by going on TV to explain. It came to be called The Checkers Speech. Nixon saved the day, garnering sympathy from voters and the opportunity to do Eisenhower’s dirty work for the following eight years. And he was forever stamped in our minds by the Checkers speech.

Years later, when I was out of the Navy and out of college and working at the University of Texas at Austin, Nixon was running for President. The work force in the Astronomy Department was fairly evenly split between political conservatives and liberals. The Ph.D. faculty tended to be very liberal, and the engineering staff, where I worked, represented conservative politics. Myself not included.

Amazingly, President John Kennedy, who has just a few years previously been murdered in Texas, was not thought of highly by the conservatives. He had beaten Nixon most narrowly just eight years before, and Nixon was now the conservative standard bearer of the nation. One middle-age woman, wife of a retired Air Force Fighter pilot, considered that in the war Kennedy used his family position to obtain a cushy position commanding a torpedo boat, which job grade got him and his crew run over in the dark by a Japanese destroyer. That was the mind set. She, and others, were aghast when I pointed out Nixon’s status as a Quaker, which earned him deferment from combat as a conscientious objector. Stephen Ambrose’s history of early Nixon sets the record straight.

As it turned out, Nixon, a lawyer recently graduated from college, volunteered for active duty and requested a ship assignment. Instead, he was given command of a quartermaster operation on a Pacific island, where he served with distinction, even enduring enemy action when Japanese warplanes attacked his base.

The Nixon family was Quaker, to be sure, and a more industrious and harder working American background would be difficult to find. Frank and Hannah Nixon settled in Orange County, California, in a solidly Quaker community. Hard work was not sufficient for a prosperous result. Frank executed a succession of poor business decisions that guaranteed the Nixon kids would recall a life of drudgery. Richard made it a springboard and rose above it. He early distinguished himself as mentally sharp, almost a legend. Later, in political life, his ability to store and recall facts and to see through complex matters propelled him upward, ultimately beyond the reach of his personal integrity.

Something about Richard Nixon’s dance with self-reliance cast him into a consummate loner. Without exception his acquaintances remarked that he was almost without personal friends:

He was conscientious about his schoolwork. Classmate Raymond Burbank remembered that even on Saturday afternoons, “Dick very seldom came out and played. He was usually studying, and there were remarks and cracks made about it.” As a consequence of his bookworm habits, the long hours he spent at work, and his shyness and sense of unease when with a friend or a small group, he was not popular. “He was a little different from the rest of us,” another classmate recalled. “He was a kid you respected. He knew everyone, he was very good in class, and when you talked to him you always had his full attention. He was friendly, but not a guy you’d put on a backpack and go fishing with.”

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 663-668). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

What was sad was the repeated pattern of Nixon’s inability or unwillingness to keep a friendship alive after the original reason for it came to an end. He would not carry any excess baggage into his postwar career; in his world, he had time only for men who could help him get ahead. Trapped in the Navy, with no opportunity for advancement, he could afford to be Mr. Roberts, but back in the real world he suppressed that side of himself. He could talk eloquently about Red, but he never wrote him, never looked him up, never tried to contact him in any way. It is noteworthy that in his spectacularly successful postwar career, no one from the Navy, nor from Duke Law School, none of his classmates from Whittier High School or Whittier College, not even any member of his family, save only Pat, played a significant role, in public or private.

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 2322-2328). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Nixon knew better. As he put it in Six Crises, Eisenhower “was a far more complex and devious man than most people realized”59 . . . Despite Nixon’s great success in handling his biggest challenge to date—getting through the President’s heart attack and recovery without a crisis—at the end of 1955 the Vice-President was even more insecure than he had been after the 1954 campaign. He was sure he was being “set up” by the White House staff, and that he had no friends at all in Eisenhower’s inner circle (he was right about the first point, wrong on the second, because Hagerty remained steadfast for another Ike-Dick ticket). Given Nixon’s vivid imagination, his ability to see in advance every possible outcome, just thinking about the future must have been near torture. He might end up like John Nance Garner, FDR’s first Vice-President, long since forgotten, or at the other extreme, like Harry Truman. There were innumerable possibilities in between the extremes. And not only did Nixon have to live with these uncertainties in his future, he had in addition to live with the fact that there was almost nothing he could do about it. Everything depended on Eisenhower.

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 7925-7933). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The Nixons’ hard scrabble life in Orange county required success for survival. Possibly as a result, Richard Nixon became the Vince Lombardi of American Politics: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

He took daily piano lessons, and violin lessons from another teacher. His cousin Sheldon Beeson was also taking lessons. “I tried to encourage them to have a little competition,” Jane Beeson remembered. “I told them that the one who would get in the most practice would get a prize. Of course, Richard got it. Any kind of a game, why, he would just go all out to win. He was just that nature.”18

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 699-702). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

It’s a characteristic that was early noted by the public. It mattered not what you stood for and how enlightened your ultimate goal. If you don’t win it is all for naught. Typical was Nixon’s campaign Against Helen Douglas in 1950 defined the public view of his style:

There were no Nixon-Douglas debates, but the two candidates did appear on the same platform once, at the San Francisco Press Club. Douglas spoke first and, among other things, mentioned her lack of campaign funds. When Nixon’s turn came, he said he sympathized deeply with her problem, which was one that he shared. However, he told the audience, grinning, he was making progress. With that, he drew a letter from his pocket and read from it: “. . . I am enclosing a small contribution to your campaign for the Senate. I only wish it could be ten times as much. Best wishes to you and Mrs. Nixon.” It was signed, Nixon announced, “Eleanor Roosevelt.”

Douglas—and everyone else—gasped. When the excitement simmered down a bit, Nixon continued in deadpan fashion: “I, too, was amazed with this contribution—amazed, that is, until I saw the postmark: Oyster Bay, New York.” The contributor was not the former First Lady, but the widow of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

By far the most famous broadside of the campaign was issued by Nixon headquarters in mid-September. It was the notorious “pink sheet,” printed on pink paper. The first printing was fifty thousand copies, but it was so popular that within a week Chotiner had a half million printed.

It was headlined “Douglas-Marcantonio Voting Record.” It appeared to be a carefully researched leaflet, filled with dates, reference data, and lawyerlike analogies. It charged that on 354 occasions Douglas and Marcantonio had voted alike. It contained a pious statement: “While it should not be expected that a member of the House should always vote in opposition to Marcantonio, it is significant to note . . . the issues on which almost without exception they always saw eye-to-eye, to wit: Un-American Activities and Internal Security.” Nixon, the pink sheet noted, had voted “exactly opposite to the Douglas-Marcantonio axis.”

The broadside used a technique Nixon was beginning to perfect. The first sentence began, “Many persons have requested a comparison of the voting records of Congresswoman Helen Douglas and the notorious Communist party-liner, Congressman Vito Marcantonio of New York.” Who those “many persons” were, no one could tell. That even one person would have thought to ask the question is doubtful, had not Mrs. Douglas charged the existence of a Nixon-Marcantonio axis.

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 4391-4410). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Douglas got back at Nixon, branding him for life:

Catchy characterizations became one of the hallmarks of the campaign. Chotiner came up with a beauty—in an [August] 30 statement, the Nixon headquarters asked, “How can Helen Douglas, capable actress that she is, take up so strange a role as a foe of communism? And why does she when she has so deservedly earned the title of ‘the pink lady’?” Douglas came up with a characterization of her own, one that was to plague Nixon throughout his career. She called him “Tricky Dick.”

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 4387-4391). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

If Nixon had few personal friends, his family life was spotless. He was not much of a romancer, and he failed to impress an early flame of his life. Then the very attractive Pat Ryan made a career of rebuffing his advances, and he made a better career of pursuit. Once married, they were a loving and faithful couple, a family that would rival the radio and television Nelsons.

As a First Lady, Pat Nixon stands out. Hillary Clinton may have once claimed to have dodge sniper fire, but Pat stood with her husband at the Caracas airport and endured the most atrocious assault imaginable:

As the Nixons approached the terminal door, directly under the observation balcony, which was packed with howling demonstrators, the army band struck up the Venezuelan national anthem. The Nixons came to attention. Then the unbelievable happened. A shower of spit began to rain down upon them. A torrent of the stuff, much of it brown, from the tobacco chewers. Pat’s new red suit was covered with it. It was running down her face. Still Nixon stood, although he admitted that no one could hear the anthem anyway, due to the noise.

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Nixon, Vol. 1: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962 (Nixon Biography) (Kindle Locations 9803-9806). Premier Digital Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The mob was communist-inspired, a prominent issue in South America in those days. Nixon became noted for his encounters with communist leaders, most prominently Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. The rise of his political career was marked by his exposure of American diplomat Alger Hiss. Hiss had been associated with the communist movement in the United States prior to World War Two, and subsequently he was a critical advisor at the Yalta Conference, during which Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin agreed how to divide up a conquered European Continent. When Hiss denied his communist involvement, Nixon located Whittaker Chambers, who offered proof that Hiss had committed perjury. Anti-communism from then forward became Nixon’s political spear point, unfortunately to the detriment of political sobriety.

Nixon’s private life was always above board. If ever there was a fugitive in the spotlight it was politician Richard Nixon. All the hired guns of both political parties were unable to find a speck of lint in his darkest closet. The infamous slush fund affair was strictly above board and only served to demonstrate Eisenhower’s forever tendency to be as wishy as he was washy.

Ambrose was no fan, but he took the assignment to write Nixon’s biography from Simon and Schuster editor Alice Mayhew. He has done a fair and truthful account of this complex political icon, and even Nixon advocates are not going to find anything amiss with this work.

1983 harks back to the days before manuscripts were routinely crafted at computer keyboards, so the Kindle edition is likely the product of mechanical transcription from the hard copy. As such, this edition suffers from many afflictions due to the failure of the OCR process. Some parts just did not translate. For example:

  • Fuller- ton
  • For Dick, coining from the small East Whittier grammar school,
  • al- ready
  • Jorgen-sen
  • Thur-ston
  • Schwel-lenbach
  • Whit-taker
  • Know-land
  • in an Ausut 30 statement, the Nixon headquarters asked

Plus a few more.

Volumes Two and Three recount Nixon’s presidency and his final fall from grace. I will not be reviewing those. Next up, a book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on the Watergate affair.