From here on out, my write-ups on volume 2 of Richard Nixon's memoirs will most likely focus on the Watergate scandal, for, as I glance at the remainder of the book, that appears to be the main subject. There may be some exceptions to that, though, for Nixon also comments every now and then about foreign affairs. I will try to make my posts diverse, however, rather than rehashing the same details about Watergate.
For today's post, I'd like to use as my starting-point
an interaction that Nixon discusses on page 320. My quotation will
appear rather elliptical, but I'll provide context for it, without
getting too wonky:
"As for the payments up to this time, I said
that our cover story was going to be that the Cuban committee had taken
care of the defendants through the election.
"'Well, yeah. We can
put that together,' [White House counsel John] Dean said. 'That isn't
of course quite the way it happened, but----'
"'I know, but it's the way it's going to have to happen,' I said."
context is this: Nixon aide Bob Haldeman told Nixon about something
that Dean had discussed with him (Haldeman). $350,000 of cash had been
taken from 1972 campaign funds to "help pay for such political projects
as public polling" (Nixon on page 310). When that money was not used,
Haldeman reported, it was returned to the Committee to Re-Elect the
President. But Dean later told Nixon a different story: that he (Dean),
Haldeman, and John Ehrlichman did not return the money unused to the
Committee to Re-Elect the President, but rather drew from it to "make
payments to the [Watergate] defendants" (Nixon on page 315). Later in
the book, on page 355, Nixon says that he did not think that Haldeman
and Ehrlichman were trying to "suppress information based on firsthand
knowledge of guilt", that is, to give the defendants payments in order
to silence them "about the guilty involvement of others"; rather, Nixon
believes that Haldeman and Ehrlichman were paying the attorney fees of
the defendants and helping out the defendants' families so that the
defendants wouldn't become bitter and hurl accusations.
page 320, Nixon narrates that he agreed with Dean that Dean, Haldeman,
and Ehrlichman used money to make payments to the Watergate defendants.
The story that Nixon wanted to tell, however, was that a Cuban
committee helped out the defendants (perhaps because most of those who
broke into the Watergate hotel were Cubans). Nixon, according to his
very own account, desired to tell a story that he did not believe was
true. He sought to lie (my word, not his).
interesting to me that Nixon in his very own account does not come off smelling like a rose in the Watergate scandal. Nixon essentially says that he was
going to release a story that he knew was not true, which I understand
to be lying. Why was Nixon so candid? While Nixon in his memoirs does
present some of the shady things that he did, he also, on some level,
tries to exonerate himself. He denies that he was aiming to obstruct
justice, for example. Perhaps he hoped that we would see him as an
honest narrator of what truly happened: if we could accept that he was
honest on the basis of his candid acknowledgements of the shady things
that he did, perhaps we'd believe what he says when he defends himself.