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Native Georgian Offline
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Post: #1
Watergate
That has been an intense subject of study for me for many years. I think I have probably read about 100 books and at least as many articles on one-aspect-or-another of that broad topic.

I think the main sources of fascination for me are the facts that:
(1.) it was never established what, specifically, the burglars were looking for;
(2.) it was never established who, ultimately, gave the order for the burglaries (note the plural) to occur; and
(3.) the public/political aspects of the scandal hinged on the statements, perceptions, and actions of about 100 or so different people, any one of whom could have theoretically pushed Watergate (broadly defined) in a different direction if they had been aware of their "power" to do so, and if they had wanted to do so.

The sheer complexity of the affair has been noted by many of the people who were directly involved. Benjamin Bradlee, the editor-in-chief of the Washington Post, wrote in his book decades later that by April of 1973 the whole thing was so confusing he had given up trying to keep track of all the loose ends. Richard Nixon said trying to make sense of it was like looking at a kaleidoscopic image that kept changing every time he looked at it. John Dean commented in his memoir how Nixon was hopelessly incapable of absorbing all the information that he (Dean) was trying to feed him in their 1:1 meetings. Charles Colson wrote that once the Vietnam War ended in January 1973, Nixon seemed to age rapidly and failed to show the kind of interest in events, or the kind of physical/mental energy in responding to events, that he had always possessed for the years that Colson had known him. He (Nixon) just sort of shut down and failed to process any new data. God knows, Nixon paid a fearful price for that failure. A price that was not fully paid even when he died about 20 years later.
07-01-2014 12:18 PM
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AngryAphid Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Watergate
Way off topic, but John Mitchell was my neighbors PT boat commander.

Once my neighbor, during shore leave sunk the dinghy so as punishment
Mitchell made him work the engine room barefoot for 30-days.
07-02-2014 08:04 AM
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Native Georgian Offline
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RE: Watergate
For years, there were rumors that Mitchell was a ranking officer over future-president John F. Kennedy in the PT squadrons in the South Pacific. That rumor is now definitively proven to be untrue. But the durability of the rumor is characteristic of the public's understanding of Mitchell -- and of Nixon, and of "Watergate", generally -- so many of the things we "know" about him, and about them, are simply not true.
07-02-2014 09:39 AM
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AngryAphid Offline
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RE: Watergate
(07-02-2014 09:39 AM)Native Georgian Wrote:  For years, there were rumors that Mitchell was a ranking officer over future-president John F. Kennedy in the PT squadrons in the South Pacific. That rumor is now definitively proven to be untrue. But the durability of the rumor is characteristic of the public's understanding of Mitchell -- and of Nixon, and of "Watergate", generally -- so many of the things we "know" about him, and about them, are simply not true.

I’d never heard that rumor, but it doesn’t surprise me stuff like that gets said.

Anyway my neighbor was on PT 541, Mitchell was his CO only a short while towards the end of the war.
I spent three hours at his house looking through his photo albums, Mitchell is in a couple of the photos.
07-02-2014 12:34 PM
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Native Georgian Offline
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RE: Watergate
(07-02-2014 12:34 PM)AngryAphid Wrote:  I'd never heard that rumor, but it doesn’t surprise me stuff like that gets said.
The only detailed account of Mitchell's military career that I have found is published in "The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate," written by James Rosen and published by Doubleday in May 2008. Rosen, who works for FOX News, commented how difficult it was to obtain reliable information about that phase of Mitchell's life, and how many conflicting accounts were in circulation.

Quote:Anyway my neighbor was on PT 541, Mitchell was his CO only a short while towards the end of the war.
I spent three hours at his house looking through his photo albums, Mitchell is in a couple of the photos.
According to Rosen, Mitchell was named commander of PT 541 on April 18, 1945. "The next two months saw intensive training for the expected invasion of mainland Japan. But after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, combat in the Pacific was finished. By November, with the war over, Lieutenant Mitchell was relieved, reassigned, and sent home to New York."
07-02-2014 06:49 PM
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Native Georgian Offline
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RE: Watergate
For a long time I kept up with Watergate-related news very closely. And by "news" I mean little things like the release of some new tape transcripts, or the publication of a book. Not exactly page-one kind of stuff, but interesting to me.

But now I have just learned that Jeb Magruder -- one of the main cogs in the entire drama -- died at age 79 back on May 11th. Don't know how that slipped by me. Ironic that he died in Danbury CT, which was the site of a federal prison where some Watergate defendants (Gordon Liddy, for one) were held.

Magruder was clearly traumatized by Watergate. His wife Gail said later (in 1987, after they were divorced) she was convinced that both of his parents (and both of her parents, too) all died prematurely because of the notoriety/shame/anxiety of the whole thing. The Magruders had three sons and one daughter; Gail said Watergate's shadow would remain with them as long as they live. I don't doubt it.

Magruder first gave testimony under oath about Watergate to a federal Grand Jury in 1972, and then at numerous trials, depositions, congressional hearings, etc., beginning in 1973. For more than 30 years, he claimed that the order to break-in at Watergate came from John Mitchell. Magruder never offered any proof of that, but that was his story, and it was generally accepted as true. To the extent that there was an "official version" of Watergate, it was definitely rooted in the premise that Mitchell gave the order.

Then in 2003 -- after Mitchell was dead, after Nixon was dead, and after many other important personalities in the affair were dead -- Magruder appeared in a TV-documentary and said for the first time that he had heard Nixon speak over the telephone and personally instruct Mitchell to go ahead with the break-in plans. To say that this accusation was "explosive" would be an understatement. (If Magruder had said this in 1974, I honestly believe Nixon would have been arrested. A delicious thought for some.) Magruder said (in 2003) that the reason he had never said that before was because "nobody asked me." Even the most reflexive Nixon-haters scorned Magruder for coming up with such a preposterous story. Then Magruder was arrested a few weeks later. A policeman in Columbus Ohio found him laying prone (but awake) on a public sidewalk and refused to move when asked. I wonder if, in some way, his weird actions were not the result of his conscience nagging him. Then Magruder had a stoke a short while later. Reportedly, he never fully recovered. A sad life in many ways, and one that would easily justify a full-length biography.

Possibly, Magruder has left behind some sort of "final testament" or other writing that will answer some of the long unanswered questions about his role, but that seems doubtful. The questions of (1.) Whose idea was it, in the first place, to break into Watergate? (2.) What was the specific motive and intent (not necessarily the same thing) behind the crime, and (3.) Who instructed Magruder to make it all happen? These questions and others will possibly never be answered.
09-05-2014 08:37 AM
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Machiavelli Offline
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Post: #7
RE: Watergate
Who was the guy who took meticulous notes. Alderman??? Halderman??? They have his writings in the Nixon library. Weren't they going to do a thing like a stone rub etching on pages that were torn out?
09-08-2014 11:02 PM
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Native Georgian Offline
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RE: Watergate
(09-08-2014 11:02 PM)Machiavelli Wrote:  Who was the guy who took meticulous notes. Alderman??? Halderman??? They have his writings in the Nixon library. Weren't they going to do a thing like a stone rub etching on pages that were torn out?
Henry Robbins 'Bob' Haldeman was Nixon's Chief-of-Staff from January 1969 to April 1973, and yes he was the champion note-taker. In addition to the notes, he also kept a meticulous diary (handwritten up until December 1970, then speaking into cassette tapes after that).

The sheer volume of material (tapes, notes, letters/memoranda, trial-transcipts, etc.) is truly incredible. Even 40+ years after Nixon's resignation, the stuff that has been made available to the public is still (I would guess) less than 1/2 of what's there.

One thing that is striking to me is how -- So Far -- nothing has ever turned up on the tapes or any other contemporary evidence (the Magruder accusation came 30 years later) to suggest that Nixon ordered the Watergate stuff, or even that he had prior knowledge/awareness/consent of it. Which leads to the obvious question: If Watergate wasn't Nixon's idea, whose idea was it, and who would dare to give the order on something that illegal/dangerous without getting a go-ahead from the boss first?

Nixon himself said that his own lack of prior knowledge of Watergate was one of the big reasons why he didn't destroy the tapes. In other words, Nixon felt his lack of prior knowledge was exculpatory, and therefore he believed that the tapes would "help" him, if anybody heard them. What he failed to understand was that his actions after Watergate -- the "cover-up" phase -- were very incriminating to him. That is what forced him to ultimately choose between impeachment or resignation. And he, of course, chose resignation.
(This post was last modified: 09-09-2014 12:10 PM by Native Georgian.)
09-09-2014 12:04 PM
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DaSaintFan Offline
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Post: #9
RE: Watergate
Quote:If Watergate wasn't Nixon's idea, whose idea was it, and who would dare to give the order on something that illegal/dangerous without getting a go-ahead from the boss first?

I remember one rumour had it that it was George HW Bush's idea from the get-go... have no idea how true it was.
09-11-2014 12:59 PM
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Native Georgian Offline
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RE: Watergate
(09-11-2014 12:59 PM)DaSaintFan Wrote:  
Quote:If Watergate wasn't Nixon's idea, whose idea was it, and who would dare to give the order on something that illegal/dangerous without getting a go-ahead from the boss first?

I remember one rumour had it that it was George HW Bush's idea from the get-go... have no idea how true it was.
04-cheers

We should always be cautious about saying something is "impossible", but the idea that George H.W. Bush came up with Watergate… Wow. In 20-25 years of studying Watergate (just as a hobby), that is one of the wackiest things I've heard yet. Just, wow.

The idea of Nixon ordering the break-ins (which I don't believe happened) is infinitely more plausible.

I was once talking about this with an older left-wing activist (someone who marched in the '60s and actually had some mutual acquaintances with people like Saul Alinsky and Daniel Ellsberg. I was hoping she had met Bill Ayers, but no dice). She said that while she celebrated Nixon's resignation and wanted him to go to prison, she still believes that (1.) the role of the CIA and FBI in Watergate was never fully exposed, and that (2.) one or both of those agencies had -- at the minimum -- upper-level executives with prior awareness that the break-ins were going to occur, and that (3.) those individuals chose to sit back and "let it happen" because (4.) they believed knowledge of a crime committed by Nixon's Re-Election Campaign would give their agencies leverage against the Nixon Administration, which they (FBI/CIA) disliked and resented.

Howard Baker, the Republican Senator from Tennessee (died in June) who famously asked "What did the President know, and when did he know it?", also is known to have believed that FBI/CIA had some hidden, undefined role in the whole affair. At this point, we will probably never know, although there are still a lot of tapes yet to be transcribed.
09-11-2014 01:35 PM
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UofM_Tiger Offline
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Post: #11
RE: Watergate
George H. W. Bush being involved would be a real stretch. At the time of the break-ins he was ambassador to the UN. Prior to that he was a US Representative. He became chairman of the Republican Party, but that was six months after the last break-in.
09-11-2014 05:00 PM
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Native Georgian Offline
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RE: Watergate
(09-11-2014 05:00 PM)UofM_Tiger Wrote:  George H. W. Bush … became chairman of the Republican Party, but that was six months after the last break-in.
That's right, Bush was Chairman of the RNC from January 1973 to September 1974. His wife Barbara used to joke that people would talk about him as if he had died. So, if he agreed to work with the RNC even though he knew that Watergate was about to explode, that would imply a degree of political masochism far beyond anything I've ever heard of…
09-11-2014 05:34 PM
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DaSaintFan Offline
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RE: Watergate
I didn't say it was true.. I just said it was one of those rumours I remember seeing.

It's amazing what you find at some of those tin-foil hat sites.
09-12-2014 12:37 PM
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Native Georgian Offline
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RE: Watergate
DSF, sorry to be unclear… I wasn't trying to imply that you were believing that story. I was just stunned that it even reached the rumor-stage.

But I guess if some people believe that LBJ had a hand in arranging for the assassination of JFK, then some people are going to believe just about anything…
09-12-2014 09:54 PM
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DaSaintFan Offline
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RE: Watergate
Unfortunately, my favorite site i used to read these crazy stuffs on (AboveTopSecret) is blocked at the office for being "alternative media".
09-16-2014 04:40 PM
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jh Offline
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RE: Watergate
100 question Watergate Quiz from the summer of 1974.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volok...gate-quiz/
10-29-2014 10:59 PM
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Native Georgian Offline
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RE: Watergate
That's a great link, jh, thank you for posting that.

For those who at least skimmed over the article, note how it (both the Q's and the A's) involves minutely-detailed knowledge about the subject. Ask yourself how much time and attention -- in the pre-Internet, pre-CSPAN, pre-24-hour-news-channels, pre-personal-computers era -- a person would have to devote in order to acquire all of that knowledge necessary to compile the quiz. A realistic answer to that question sheds some light on what an incredible obsession "Watergate" was for the political class, and in fact for many Americans in general. The peak of the obsession lasted about two full years (~April '73 to ~April '75), and for some it never fully subsided.

The author (of the linked-article, not of the original quiz which was created in 1974) David Kopel writes that "In my view, Watergate is a positive story." Virtually every liberal that I have ever heard (or read) express an opinion about Watergate is in agreement with that. In fact, to them, Watergate was not just "a positive story" but loads of fun. They enjoyed it thoroughly, wanted it to continue, and were let down when the public's attention finally drifted on to other subjects. Something to remember when you hear them describe Watergate as "needless agony" or as "our long national nightmare". So it was -- for Nixon and his supporters. Not in the least for the people who hate(d) him.
(This post was last modified: 10-29-2014 11:46 PM by Native Georgian.)
10-29-2014 11:35 PM
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Machiavelli Offline
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Post: #18
RE: Watergate
We could get what is on the 15 minutes of deleted tape if we just did the rub etching method on Haldeman's notes. Is there a statute of limitations coming up on this stuff so we can finally get to the bottom of it. When will all the Kennedy stuff be released too? I don't understand why people still want to protect that info. It's been 40 odd years!
12-03-2014 08:09 AM
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Native Georgian Offline
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RE: Watergate
(12-03-2014 08:09 AM)Machiavelli Wrote:  We could get what is on the 15 minutes of deleted tape if we just did the rub etching method on Haldeman's notes. Is there a statute of limitations coming up on this stuff so we can finally get to the bottom of it. When will all the Kennedy stuff be released too? I don't understand why people still want to protect that info. It's been 40 odd years!
Fully agreed that anything -- absolutely anything -- should be released about the Kennedy shooting after 51 years.

The Nixon tapes (made from February 1971 to July 1973) are not in exactly the same category, but at this point the burden of proof should be on the side of "restrictionists" to show why a tape should not be made known to the public.

One of the main problems with the Nixon tapes is simply understanding the voices and spoken comments on them. It was little-realized by the public at the time, but a lot of these taped conversations are simply unintelligible. The tapes used were not state-of-the-art (even for that generation) and the listening devices were not (to say the least) positioned with acoustical clarity in mind. A clever judge could have given the convicted defendants the option of shorter sentences, in exchange for assisting with the compilation of complete, accurate, authorized transcripts of all the most significant conversations. Alas, the judge who had the authority to do this (Sirica) was anything but "clever".
(This post was last modified: 12-04-2014 12:11 AM by Native Georgian.)
12-04-2014 12:08 AM
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Native Georgian Offline
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RE: Watergate
So it seems that the History Forum is pretty much dead in the water. I hope it will be left in place, though. I actually intend to save a lot of the comments I've made on this thread and some of the others
04-22-2015 09:17 PM
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