Monday, December 23, 2013

The Ends of Power 1

I started H.R. Haldeman’s The Ends of Power, which Haldeman co-wrote with Joseph DiMona.  Haldeman was White House Chief of Staff to President Richard Nixon.

Why did I decide to read this book?  Well, Haldeman has somewhat fascinated me.  I suppose that he has ever since I read Eli Chesen’s President Nixon’s Psychiatric Profile, which noted Haldeman’s 1950′s style haircut, and also the fact that Haldeman was a devout Christian Scientist.  Moreover, I have long read and heard that Haldeman was rather intimidating, and I often wonder what is underneath people who put on a tough front.

So far, The Ends of Power gets into some of the intricacies of Watergate.  Reading this book is similar to my experience of reading volume 2 of Nixon’s memoirs, which talked a lot about Watergate.  This is not because Haldeman necessarily agrees with Nixon’s account: Haldeman agrees with Nixon in some areas, but disagrees with Nixon in others (i.e., what was discussed on the 18 and 1/2 minutes erased from the tape).  Rather, the two are similar because of their ambiguity.  Both of them, on some level, agree that the break-in at the Democratic Committee’s headquarters was a mistake, and Haldeman takes some responsibility for it, even though he says that neither he nor Nixon ordered it or even knew about it until after it occurred.  (UPDATE: Later in the book, however, Haldeman says that Nixon wanted information about DNC chair Lawrence O'Brien, and that this might have been an impetus for the break-in.) And yet, both Nixon and Haldeman say that they don’t have much of a problem with bugging because Democrats did that, too.  The initial reaction of Nixon and Haldeman, according to their accounts, was that the break-in was stupid, since what was at the DNC headquarters?  But they stop short of criticizing the mindset that was allegedly behind the break-in: the use of bugging to gather information on one’s political opponents.  I’m just speaking based on my reading of Haldeman so far.

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