Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Ends of Power 6

For my blog post today about The Ends of Power, by H.R. Haldeman and Joseph DiMona, I will use as my pivot-point something that Haldeman says on page 191.  Haldeman is talking about the idea that there was a CIA connection with the Watergate break-in, and Haldeman states that Charles Colson, an aide to President Richard Nixon, was investigating that.  According to Haldeman, Colson was finding information, but Colson then decided to terminate the investigation due to new-found religious commitments.  Colson had become a born-again Christian, and “he had apparently decided to turn the other cheek, as the Bible suggests, and ignored almost completely all the facts he had uncovered about the CIA involvement” (page 191).

I have two items:

1.  One reason that people probably bought this book was that they were curious about Haldeman’s take on Watergate.  Haldeman, after all, was President Nixon’s White House Chief of Staff and a close adviser.  In The Ends of Power, Haldeman explores different ideas about why the Watergate break-in occurred.  One idea was that those who broke in were trying to find information about Democratic strategies for the 1972 Presidential election.  Another idea was that the CIA was seeking a way to undermine Nixon’s Presidency, since the CIA feared that Nixon might interfere politically with its operations.  Haldeman also mentions the argument that Democrats knew about the break-in in advance and allowed it so as to discredit Nixon’s Administration, as well as the notion that the CIA sought to sabotage the break-in because it feared that the bugging of Lawrence O’Brien’s phone would uncover CIA connections with magnate Howard Hughes.  Haldeman does not believe that a break-in to uncover Democratic strategies would have been particularly wise, since Nixon was ahead of George McGovern in the polls, and the Democratic National Committee headquarters was not the place to find McGovern’s strategies.  But Haldeman offers arguments for the possible role of the CIA, appealing to people in the CIA who were involved in the break-in, as well as bizarre occurrences during the break-in that may indicate CIA sabotage.

The explanation for Watergate that Haldeman settles on goes as follows: Nixon desired information on DNC chairman Lawrence O’Brien, for Nixon was upset that O’Brien was harping on the ITT scandal (see here), and Nixon wanted to find information about O’Brien’s links with Howard Hughes.  According to Haldeman’s theory, Nixon ordered Colson to dig up information about O’Brien, Colson handed the mission over to E. Howard Hunt, and Hunt conferred with G. Gordon Liddy, who decided to tap O’Brien’s phone at the Watergate.  Meanwhile, the “Democratic high command” (Haldeman’s words) expected the break-in, and the CIA was monitoring and sabotaging it.

2.  Haldeman’s discussion of Colson’s religiosity intrigued me.  Haldeman mentions religion earlier in the book, when Haldeman says that he (meaning Haldeman) used to drink but quit for religious reasons.  Now, on page 191, Haldeman mentions Colson’s conversion.  Haldeman refers to Colson’s religiosity later in the book as well, for Haldeman notes Colson’s work in prison ministry and says that he believes that Colson is a changed man.  At the same time, Haldeman wonders if Colson might be blackmailing Nixon.  Haldeman notes that Nixon, in David Frost’s interviews of him, did not mention Colson once, and Haldeman is curious about whether or not that was due to blackmail.

Since Haldeman quit drinking for religious reasons, that must mean that religion was important to Haldeman, right?  How, then, did Haldeman react to Colson’s religiosity?  I detect some sadness on Haldeman’s part that Colson did not continue to investigate the possible CIA role in the Watergate break-in.  Did Haldeman believe that Colson in that case was misapplying the biblical command to turn-the-other-cheek, or rather that the biblical command itself was impractical?  Moreover, later in the book, Haldeman appears to miss the old Colson.  “There may never be his like again”, Haldeman says in page 219.

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