Monday, December 22, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Four decades on, lessons of Nixon resignation worth recalling

thommason column sig

By
From page A11 | August 06, 2014 |

Forty years ago, I sat alone in the White House briefing room wiped out mentally and physically by the nearly unrelenting pressure of two years of covering the scandal that has come to symbolize the worst and the best in America’s history. The worst because of its enormous assault on our democracy and the best because our institutions, including the press, stood up to the assault.

Richard Nixon had just resigned, and I now was vowing silently never to write another word about the event which had become universally known as just “Watergate,” although it covered far more than the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters in the office building of that name. I pretty much kept my pledge even to the extent of refusing to watch the movie “All the President’s Men” – Hollywood’s version of the drama that shook the foundation of our Constitution and based on the book by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

The other day, I heard an acquaintance allege that it was after all just a third-rate burglary undertaken by rogue political operatives without the president’s knowledge or implied consent. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was in fact not a burglary at all as we define the word. Nothing material was being stolen unless one counts the precious gift of privacy and the sanctity of our political system, which is a far worse theft than anything heretofore imagined.

It was an intrusion carried out by morally and ethically challenged presidential operatives at the top of his campaign organization to glean information through eavesdropping devices installed in an earlier break-in for the purpose of political leverage in the 1972 presidential election as though Nixon had any actual fear of losing to a badly divided Democratic Party. In other words, for blackmail.

What the “bugs” revealed from the conversations they recorded at least from the DNC desk where visiting Democrats were accommodated on trips to Washington never has been revealed. And for good reason. In the end, of course, it became clear through Oval Office tape recordings that while Nixon may not have known of plans for the actual break-in before it took place, he did afterward and participated in the attempted cover up of the scandal.

The revelation of those now infamous tapes during the Senate’s prolonged investigation of Watergate was the beginning of the end for Nixon. They have over the decades been endlessly perused by some of the world’s leading historians who seem to find new material each time.

Two books now in circulation – one by historians Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter and another from a leading Watergate figure, former presidential council John Dean, mark this anniversary of the Nixon’s resignation. I was amused to see a headline over a column about the Dean book that stated “Legacy Tarnished by His Own Words.” To which one could only reply. You think?

Over the 40 years since his decision that the jig was up and resignation was the only escape from impeachment and probable conviction by the Senate there has been some rehabilitation based on both his undisputed brilliance as a political analyst and his breakthrough with China, among other things. But it is the words on those tapes he once confided he should have burned that in the end haunt his image.

Whether destroying the tapes was even possible considering they were under the control of the Technical Services Division of the Secret Service without creating even more loss of credibility is problematic. The disclosure came from White House aide Alexander Butterfield during a pre-appearance interrogation by Republican Senate Investigator Don Sanders. Sanders once confided to me and a colleague Jim Squires of the Chicago Tribune that he believed that Butterfield was anxious to reveal their existence. This, of course, has generated considerable speculation about Butterfield’s motivations.

In the end, it was the official investigatory agencies including the FBI and the CIA and the Senate committee leaking to an unswerving band of reporters, of which I was proud to have been one, that nailed shut the lid on the Nixon presidency. It was a tragic conclusion to what could have been a brilliant legacy, was destroyed by a White House culture of paranoia and moral decay. What was gained for a time at least was a new awareness of what we almost lost.

Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: thomassondan@aol.com.

Dan K. Thomasson

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • DanielAugust 05, 2014 - 2:05 pm

    The more I hear the details about Nixon the more he reminds me of Obama including the domestic spying and paranoia.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mike KirchubelAugust 06, 2014 - 8:14 am

    Try reading more. They couldn't be more different.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Christmas comes early to San Marco Street park

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1, 7 Comments | Gallery

 
Travis squadron delivers Christmas gifts to East Tabor

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
 
 
Multiple car accident blocks I-80 in Vacaville

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Famous Creations’ toy drive and cupcake sale

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Last-minute shopping at Vacaville Premium Outlets

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A4, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Kitchen fire dislocates family for Christmas

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4, 3 Comments | Gallery

Suisun City police log: Dec. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Weather for Dec. 22, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B10

 
.

US / World

A look at the 2 NYC officers killed in ambush

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Killer of 2 NYC officers had long criminal history

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 4 Comments

 
Killings of 2 New York officers trigger backlash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 7 Comments

California puzzles over safety of driverless cars

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 5 Comments

 
Timeline of events before and after NY cop deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Pakistan makes arrests in Taliban school carnage

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Tent city sprouts in shadow of downtown Detroit

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
US mulls putting NKorea on terrorism sponsor list

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Satanic Temple puts up display at Michigan Capitol

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 11 Comments

 
Australian woman charged with murder of 8 children

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Exit poll: Ex-regime official is Tunisia’s new president

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
.

Opinion

Faust and the 2015 federal budget

By Mike Kirchubel | From Page: A8, 17 Comments

 
Obama, surgeon general still losing to NRA

By Francis Wilkinson | From Page: A8, 5 Comments

Let the music begin

By Colleen Britton | From Page: A8, 4 Comments

 
Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 22, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Today in History: Dec. 22, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Dec. 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

Horoscopes: Dec. 23, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

 
 
Horoscopes: Dec. 22, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

.

Entertainment

TVGrid Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
TVGrid Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

‘Hobbit’ goes out on top with $90.6 million 5-day debut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Good news from Tom Brokaw: His cancer is in remission

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Review: ‘The Interview’ deserves to be seen

By Jake Coyle | From Page: B7

 
Happy day: Elton John, David Furnish marry in England

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

.

Sports

The Week Ahead: Not much of a break for Christmas

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1

 
Steelers, Packers win, move into playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Raiders knock Bills out of playoffs with 26-24 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Kings snap 5-game losing skid, beat Lakers 108-101

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Burns gives Sharks late-night win over Blues in OT

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
NFL Roundup: Cowboys end 4-year drought, make playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

7 hurt when lightning strikes near Tampa Bay game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
India’s Arjun Atwal wins Dubai Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Documents: FSU QB Winston cleared in conduct hearing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Super-G crash makes Vonn wait in bid for record

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

US companies eager to embrace Cuba face hurdles

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Survey: US gas prices fall 25 cents per gallon

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Obituaries

Marian Kay Zutz

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Bart Ferro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Beetle Bailey Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Garfield Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baldo Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Blondie Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Dilbert Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C. Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baby Blues Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Zits Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Pickles Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Rose is Rose Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sudoku Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Bridge Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Word Sleuth Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Crossword Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Cryptoquote Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Get Fuzzy Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Baby Blues Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baldo Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Zits Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Peanuts Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Dilbert Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Sally Forth Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Pickles Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Rose is Rose Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Frank and Ernest Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Blondie Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Beetle Bailey Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Garfield Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

B.C. Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Wizard of Id Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

For Better or Worse Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Sudoku Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Cryptoquote Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Bridge Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Word Sleuth Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Crossword Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7