SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

August 31, 2013

Shribman: Nixon was OK with all of it

There is a crackle in the recording. And it’s easy to be distracted by the sound of the scratching of a pencil, a noise made by an obsequious aide furiously taking notes when he is not making self-serving or flattering interjections. But the man at the center of this conversation is unmistakable, for there is only one person in the history of humankind who might have said this:

“I had no knowledge of the goddamned break-in, that’s for sure, no knowledge of the goddamned cover-up. Oh no. No participation and no authorization or knowledge of the goddamn cover-up.”

That is the 37th president of the United States shortly after 8 in the morning on May 8, 1973.

The man had plenty to say. He luxuriated in his poll ratings. He took comfort in the country’s belief he still had plenty to accomplish as president. He pressed the logic of whether he ought to speak of a cover-up at all, because merely using the term might acknowledge there was a cover-up. In the same building a quarter-century later, a man also courting impeachment would employ similar presidential logic and wonder out loud about the meaning of the word “is.”

The other day the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum released the final batch of secretly recorded White House tapes, and as usual they are a treasure. In those tapes are a festival of unctuousness (Gov. Ronald Reagan consoling the Watergate-beleaguered Nixon, counseling, “This, too, shall pass,” which, of course, it did not) and unreality (“I won’t let you down,” Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson tells the president, before doing just that, resigning rather than firing Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox).

Even the most devoted Watergate buff — and here I plead guilty, for the whole affair is an irresistible combination of politics, crime, justice, villainy, heroism, greed, mendacity and tragedy, all played out in the high technology of the time (tapes) and the low technology of our time (actual printed newspapers) — can’t digest 340 hours of conversations at once.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion

AP Video
Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Obama Voices Concern About Casualties in Mideast Diplomacy Intensifies Amid Mounting Gaza Toll AP Exclusive: American Beaten in Israel Speaks Obama Protects Gay, Transgender Workers Raw: Gaza Rescuers Search Rubble for Survivors Raw: International Team Inspects MH17 Bodies Raw: 25 Family Members Killed in Gaza Airstrike US Teen Beaten in Mideast Talks About Ordeal 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate
Helium