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My name is Stu and I am here to share what I can.

I'm studying Richard Nixon ('cause everyone needs a hobby), specifically the run-up to The Presidency and his years as President, and I have a question, open to the floor:

During the end of April, 1974, Richard Nixon's staff, under his direction, are piecing together edited transcripts of the Oval Office tapes. During that week, the transcripts are being reviewed by the press secretary's office, as a support mechanism for the editing as well as to better their preparation for the upcoming feeding frenzy, an inevitable event once the transcripts went public.

One of the deputies assigned to review the transcripts was Frank Gannon. Mr. Gannon was concerned that the transcripts had no commontary, and would therefore be devastating to the administration, as they would be misunderstood. He talked over with his boss, Ron Ziegler, and soon sat in White House Counsel St. Clair's office, reviewing each page of commentary, as soon as it came off of St. Clair's typewriter. Eventually Gannon had read enough and the two had a discussion about the upcoming release. In that meeting, they both agreed that, as they saw it, the transcripts showed President Nixon as being innocent of the charges being discussed by the Judiciary Committee.

But what if they saw it differently? I'm not sure if the smoking gun transcript was apparent to either of them, so maybe they were indeed pure of heart and honestly felt that the Nixon could avoid the hangman's noose. But what if they both saw it the other way? What if they went to Haig (the new chief of staff) and convinced him that the transcripts shouldn't be released and that President Nixon should, at all costs, claim executive privilege? What if they immediately burned the transcripts and locked the tapes away, and no one leaked? Would it have made any difference?

On one hand, at best, this approach would have only prevented the first article of impeachment. It's possible that the second article of impeachment, about the abuse of the IRS, would have passed, and certainly the third, the "failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things," article would have passed. So maybe the point is moot.

But on the other hand, what if the administration was successful in squashing the tape of June 23, 1972, the smoking gun? Would that have been enough to stop the avalanche short of burying President Nixon? Could it have ended in a less damaging manner, in censure? And if so, what then? What would have been the effect on history? Not just American history, but the history of the Presidency, of the power and effect of The Office Of The President Of The United States?

Again, all opinions welcome.


Anonymous said...

I have been pondering this post for days...

And I think it may be one of the few points in our history as a nation where 20/20 hindsight is just not possible.

And not desirable.

Because any way you look at it, it appears that things would have been *worse* than they turned out to be. In short, there was no available "good outcome" from Watergate. Only shades of bad, horrible, and worse.

And I still believe - as I have for many, many years - that there is still far more that we may never know. And perhaps never *should* know.

Because to know would be to lose even more faith in the Office of the Presidency under Nixon, and The Government in general.

Stu said...

Respectfully, I disagree with the concept of "no good outcome." Our country benefitted greatly from Watergate, as it brought us the proper amount of cynicism needed in order to progress. More and more of us question authority, and that's never a bad thing.