Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Ends of Power 14

I finished H.R. Haldeman’s (and Joseph DiMona’s) The Ends of Power.  In this post, I’d like to highlight something that Haldeman says in the book’s afterword.  This afterword appeared in a later edition of the book, after a number of people had offered their thoughts on The Ends of Power.

On page 413, Haldeman states the following:

“My own viewpoint has changed from that of more than a year ago when I started work on this book, shortly after the Nixon-Frost TV interviews.  Despite the popular mythology, I was neither enraged by those interviews nor did I ‘turn against President Nixon’ after seeing them…Unlike my reaction after the TV interviews last year, I now feel that President Nixon has provided many of the answers I had hoped for and felt were missing.”

I often got the same impression in reading The Ends of Power as those who bought into what Haldeman calls “the popular mythology”: that Haldeman was upset by what Nixon was saying in the Frost interviews.  Sure, there was one place in the book where Haldeman tries to be a good soldier, where he says that he himself was dispensable, for the important person was the President of the United States.  But I detected that Haldeman was upset because he believed that Nixon in the Frost interviews was blaming Haldeman and John Ehrlichman for the coverup, to save his own reputation.  I wouldn’t characterize The Ends of Power as thoroughly bitter against Nixon, however, for it does say positive things about him.

What puzzled me about Haldeman’s characterization of Nixon’s comments in the Frost interviews was that it did not seem to me that Nixon’s side of the story blamed the cover-up (if that’s the right word) solely on Haldeman and Ehrlichman.  By “Nixon’s side of the story,” I mean what Nixon said in his memoirs.  What Haldeman said in The Ends of Power did not strike me as dramatically different from what Nixon said in his memoirs: that Nixon wanted the CIA to limit the FBI’s investigation into Watergate.  According to Nixon in his memoirs, Nixon thought that he had a national security (rather than a political) reason for that, but, when he listened to the tape of his consideration of the idea, he was not so sure.  Haldeman is a bit more brazen in saying that Nixon was in on the cover-up from the beginning, and yet Haldeman acknowledges that Nixon may not have seen it as a cover-up.  Both slightly differ in their account, yet they’re still telling the same basic story (at least about the contents of the “smoking gun” tape).  Haldeman’s praise of Nixon’s account in the presidential memoirs redresses my confusion.

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