Friday, April 1, 2011

California Republicans Blew It

George Skelton on California GOP legislators' poor discernment:
Republicans...blew yet another chance to be relevant in this blue state by not capitalizing on their clout over a two-thirds vote. A little give here and there and they could have had pension rollbacks, business regulatory relief and even a spending cap. All for just putting a tax question on the ballot.

Democratic legislators essentially did their job. They basically cut in half a $26-billion deficit, mostly with spending cuts principally aimed at the poor, the disabled, the aged and the tuition-paying university students. Republicans wouldn't even vote for all that whacking.

With Friends Like These

A GOP congressman from southern California calls the Obama administration "Nixonian."

Bet The Picture Reminds You Of The Flintstones

Chris Lehmann:
British archaeologists are seeking to authenticate what could be a landmark discovery in the documentation of early Christianity: a trove of 70 lead codices that appear to date from the 1st century CE, which may include key clues to the last days of Jesus' life. As UK Daily Mail reporter Fiona Macrae writes, some researchers are suggesting this could be the most significant find in Christian archeology since the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947.
Hat tip to Suzy Hardy

Obrevity, Please

Roger Cohen reluctantly supports the Libyan intervention reluctantly ordered by President Obama but describes the clear and present dangers in the shifting sands:
There was an Allied offensive during the North African campaign called “Operation Brevity.” It had mixed results, but I’d borrow the name. Speed in ousting Qaddafi, the objective from which Western leaders cannot retreat, is essential. We all know what happens if this Mad Max war festers: The coalition fractures, jihadists seep into a failed state of porous borders, mission creep begins.

The Domestic Freedom Agenda

A former GOP state senator from Iowa makes the conservative case for permitting gay marriage.
Hat tip to Susan Russell

BTO Watch

Michele Bachmann is raising more money than Mitt Romney.

My Parents' Hands

When I think of my mother Jean's strong fingers, she's typing 75 wpm on a Royal manual in a newsroom or the stylish Olivetti in the blue case that she carried to Jerusalem on a reporting trip after the Six-Day War. I think of my father Harvey's slim hands massacring Beethoven piano sonatas or squaring off his cigarette lighter on top of a pack of Chesterfields next to his martini on the coffee table.

I've been thinking today about hands and handing over. Fifty years ago -- yes, on an April Fool's Saturday; it probably explains a lot -- they hand-wrote inscriptions in the King James Bible they presented on the occasion of my baptism by the Rev. Canon Howard McClintock at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Detroit.

I was six, which is old for an infant baptism. My genial but abstracted father, also a journalist, moved out when I was two, and even before then, as I understand it, it was never dull, because of the music and martinis. My mother worked long hours as a pioneering general assignment reporter for the Detroit Free Press to support us and finally pay my father's attorney to divorce her, since otherwise that might never have happened, either. I was lucky to have received the sacrament as early as I did.

Harvey died in 1975. My mother doesn't type as much as she used to, though she can still write an eloquent and whimsical e-mail. I type like crazy, when my fingers aren't itching to play the guitar. On my father's beloved piano, I only got as far as massacring Mozart sonatas. After decades of air guitar I bought my first dreadnought on my 40th birthday and have learned to play well enough to accompany myself singing folks songs. I play with church friends and for St. John's School students during chapel. Last weekend in the mountains, friends sat politely as I struggled through two Tom Russell songs and one by John Prine. When I'm playing guitar a lot, I'm blogging less, and then the other way around. Kathy definitely prefers the blogging, but I love them both, because I was anointed by my parents' hands and blessed by the things they loved.

Getting It Over With

Historian Maarja Krusten spotted this at the web site of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
The late President Richard M. Nixon approved a new, candid, exhibit on Watergate for the Nixon Library in southern California.
Neat trick, since he died in 1994, and work didn't begin on the new exhibit until 2007. But it reminded me of a conversation at the library yesterday with reporter Andrew Gumbel, who asked me what Nixon would've thought of the exhibit and the day.

Reading the mind of the dead is an invitation to opportunism. But I'd had to run the risk many times before. As co-executor of Nixon's estate, I tried to do what I thought was best for his legacy when making decisions about his will, White House materials, and library.

His family was sometimes part of the discernment. He had battled for years to keep his tapes and other records under wraps, but within weeks of his death, buoyed by the encomiums at his Yorba Linda funeral, they made it clear they wanted the fight with the National Archives to end. If they were wrong to think that his death had secured his place in history, they were right about laying down our sword and shield, since it sped the opening of the presidential records that will be the foundation of his legacy in the long term.

As for the new Watergate gallery, the master of realpolitik would have appreciated two realities of presidential museum politics. Library director and exhibition curator Tim Naftali put the first one best yesterday: How can a museum expect visitors to take seriously what it tells them about the successes if it Whitewaters the failures? Besides, though Nixon's White House men looked at it differently when it came to their Watergate oral histories, it doesn't make sense (and is elitist besides) to withhold information from museum-goers that scholars and journalists can find a few steps away in the archives.

So to Gumbel, I said this about what 37 just might have said: "I don't like it. I wish they didn't have to do it. But if has to be done -- if we have to get through this day so I can get a shot at redemption -- then they should do it and get it over with."

The Lost Generation

At the Nixon library yesterday, National Archives officials praised two generations of federal archivists who'd worked to preserve and organize Richard Nixon's White House records. Historian Maarja Krusten reminds her readers that there was a third.

Remember That '70s Band BTO?

Bachmann Tea party Overdrive.

Jerry Rigged

An LA Times article makes claims about the irrelevance of California Republicans that seem unpersuasive at first, since they've apparently just killed Gov. Brown's budget balancing plan.

I do see what the reporters, Evan Halper and Michael Mishak, are driving at. As GOP registration numbers decline, Republicans are relegated t0 a seeming structural minority in the state legislature. Those wanting to do more than be obstructionists end up working with the majority, which results in centrist outcomes that conservative purists consider as bad as purely liberal ones -- worse, because they're even more likely to be enacted.

And so with the state facing the prospect of bankruptcy, a few brave Republicans were willing to talk to Brown about massive budget cuts in exchange for an agreement to continue some expiring taxes and put new taxes on the ballot. It's not that these GOP apostates were voting for new taxes. It's just that they were willing to let us do so. Given Californians' recent disinclination to raise taxes, it would've been a pretty safe bet.

But the purists won, and Brown ended negotiations this week. That's where the Times article comes in. Let's see what the GOP can accomplish in the broad public interest with 30% registration, dwindling numbers in the legislature, and no statewide office holder about the Board of Equalization. And folks, it had better be good.

Bash Lazy Politicians, Not Unions

Stanley Kutler on the move against public employee unions, in his state of Wisconsin and elsewhere:
Whether in polite country club conversation or in the angry voices of barroom exchanges, we have an atavistic, ugly strain of hostility toward public workers, and even the idea of unions, that arouses some of our most divisive political dialogue. U.S. House Republicans, by way of example, have proposed legislation that would deny food stamps to the children or relatives of any worker who strikes. Real budget hawks, those people.

Yet where and when have any candidates for public office declared and advocated such hostility and promised to destroy unions? Neither Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker nor his dutiful followers in the Legislature ever, ever openly called for the actions they are now taking. Theirs was a stealth campaign, one of calculated deceit.

Kutler chalks it up to people's anger at teachers and teacher unions. He's right that there's plenty of that. But it's also Republicans wanting to hobble unions' ability to influence elections with campaign contributions. Will legislators who don't get union support be tougher during contract negotiations? Probably. But it's not all the unions' fault that lazy politicians of both parties negotiating at the local and state levels over the last 30 years or more made imprudent bargains that failed to take into account the possibility of an extended revenue drought such as the one we're experiencing now.

All in all, it's pretty ironic that the same sorts of folks who welcomed the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which amply protected corporate free speech, are now using raw state power to gag workers. On this issue, give me stand-up, East coast Republicans like Gov. Chris Christie and Donald Trump who refuse to bash unions but know how to protect themselves and their stakeholders at the bargaining table.

Artful General

During World War II, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower ordered Allied troops to protect works of art and other cultural treasurers. A researcher has uncovered an audio version of his 1946 speech explaining the order:

Eisenhower said, "it may seem strange that a soldier, representative of the science of destruction, should appear before a body dedicated to the preservation of man's creative ideals as expressed in art."

But Eisenhower said he understood the importance of cultural treasures and remembered seeing fascination in the faces of soldiers exploring the ancient city of Timgad in North Africa during military operations there.

"The freedom enjoyed by this country from the desolation that has swept over so many others during the past years gives to America greater opportunity than ever before to become the greatest of the world's repositories of art," he said.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Let It Ride," Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

A song for Watergate day at the Nixon library

Rebels? Who, Us?

Before plunging the U.S. into the Libyan revolution, did President Obama understand how poorly organized the rebels were?

St. John's Sermon Recap: Lent So Far

At St. John's Episcopal Church, our Lenten walk began two weeks before the sacred season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as we examined our missionary vocations as "steward's of God's mysteries" and lights of God's kingdom. During the five Sundays in Lent, we're discussing five tools of our evangelical ministry: The resources of the Word, as students of the Bible bound together by The Book of Common Prayer; our liturgical worship as a faith bridge between things seen and things unseen; and an honest understanding of our thirst, our inmost desires, whether for acceptance, achievement, or wholeness. Tune in the next two weeks for destiny and death!

All Haldeman's Men

When those in control of Richard Nixon's foundation posted a small portion of their 158-page critique of the Nixon library's new Watergate exhibit, it seems to have piqued reporters' curiosity about the rest. Chris Goffard of the LA Times obtained it and learned that Nixon's White House men, a number of them Bob Haldeman acolytes, were as interested in rehabilitating their mentor as 37:
The foundation called for the removal of a section titled "Dirty Tricks and Political Espionage" and suggested "something complimentary" be said about Nixon's top aide, H.R. Haldeman, who served 18 months in prison for covering up the Watergate burglary.
As for the extent of the Nixon-Haldeman operatives' influence on the final exhibit, the New York Times' Adam Nagourney, who broke the news of the war on Nixon library director and exhibit curator Tim Naftali last August, reports:

Almost none of the requests made by the foundation was reflected in the final exhibition.

Photo of dirty tricks and political espionage section of the Nixon library Watergate exhibit by Gina Ferazzi, LA Times

I Got Scooped (By Mom's Old Paper, So It's OK)

Chris Goffard reports that convicted perjurer Dwight Chapin's explosive claim that President Nixon was in on dirty tricks from the beginning did make the new Nixon library Watergate exhibit, over the objections of his White House friends:
One of the exhibit's interviews features Dwight Chapin, Nixon's appointments secretary, claiming that Nixon was present when Haldeman ordered the establishment of a dirty-tricks unit for the 1972 presidential campaign. It was Chapin who hired Donald Segretti, a Nixon operative who engaged in the sabotage of Democrats.

The Naftali Doctrine

That's Kathy O'Connor, President Nixon's last chief of staff, with his brother Edward and our Nixon foundation friend Ric Leczel this morning after ceremonies marking the opening of the new Watergate gallery at the Nixon library.

Ed was stooping to stay in the frame. The Watergate opening is standing tall as a national story. Follow the links to the LA Times (Chris Goffard's first take), Orange County Register, Associated Press, USA Today, Washington Post, and ABC News -- where, if the story makes the evening news, it will be introduced or reported by former Nixon aide Diane Sawyer. The AP's Michael Blood favored me with a quotation as follows:

John Taylor, who worked for Nixon after he left the White House and helped design the original exhibit, said it was difficult for those who revere Nixon to deal with Watergate. He said the content in the new exhibit made him uncomfortable but with the passage of time, "you can hear the truth, you can accept the truth and you can learn from the truth."

"In the next 50 years America is going to answer the question, what is the sentence that goes with Mr. Nixon?" Taylor said. "Is it, he went to China, or that he quit? For that to be a fair dialogue, this day had to happen."

Kathy and I went to work trying to get the private Nixon library into the federal system in the mid-1990s. Nixon family members desiring a richer settlement from a lawsuit torpedoed our first effort in 1996-97. We finally succeeded in 2007 -- well, we plus $1 million for some blue-chip lobbyists.

That still left the matter of our polemical 1990 Watergate gallery, which had outlived its usefulness, as often happens at first-generation presidential museums that have to grapple with unpleasant or controversial events. Today's unveiling of a stunningly presented, federally anointed replacement was a tribute to Cold War historian and exhibit curator Tim Naftali as well as to two archivists of the U.S., Allen Weinstein (shown signing the handover papers in 2007) and David Ferriero. Ferriero in particular withstood considerable pressure from the Nixon-Bob Haldeman aides who took control of Nixon's foundation as Naftali was conducting his painstaking work.

At today's ceremony, attended by 200 federal library staffers and loyal volunteers (that's Kathy with docents Connie Mesko and Gloria Norton), both Ferriero and his deputy, Sharon Fawcett, amply praised Naftali's professionalism and integrity. Kathy and I were especially pleased to hear that, having gotten him into these often treacherous straits in the first place. Today's mountaintop moment after two difficult years had Naftali waxing prophetic in his eloquent prepared remarks, praising the durability of the U.S. system when one of the three branches abuses its power and suggesting that all presidential libraries should exhibit curatorial as well as archival integrity and openness.

While the Naftali doctrine should be given close attention by Ferriero and his colleagues whenever principles of good practice at presidential libraries are discussed, the structural difficulty with his approach is that a president's rich friends won't contribute millions to see a warts-and-all museum or indeed wart one. Read more about libraries and money here. Until now, NARA has put up with a generation or two of museum hagiography in exchange for warehouses for storing millions of pages of memos and letters as well as photos, gifts, and other artifacts. Now that the vital records of an eight-year administration can be stored on a few MacBooks, will presidential libraries persist? Tune in in two years or six. If there is an Obama library and museum, you can bet that Roger Ailes and Sean Hannity will be howling for curatorial integrity and openness as strenuously as any Nixon critic ever did.

While I have a pretty good idea what's in the Watergate gallery thanks to the background at, I look forward to spending a quiet afternoon with the massive interactive exhibit, walking that long, hard road with 37. I'll be especially interested to learn who won the argument between Naftali and Nixon's White House men over whether the museum-going, taxpaying public has been permitted to hear substantial excerpts from oral history interviews with Naftali in which Dwight Chapin, Fred Malek, and others discuss dirty tricks, counting Jews in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other discouraging moments from an era when a peace-making, partisan warrior of president, caught in the maelstrom of a war he didn't start, mediated between his dreams and demons.

In any event, it was high time for the Nixon library, now in its 21st year, to grow up and accept that the judgment of history, no matter how it comes out for Nixon, lies beyond the reach of advocacy by family, friends, consultants, and especially those whose own reputations hang in the balance alongside the president they served, often honorably but sometimes, as this new exhibit shows, not.
Above photo, showing Nixon library director Tim Naftali briefing the media on the Watergate gallery, is by Jebb Harris of the Orange County Register.

Where This War Ends

Andrew Sullivan is alarmed as a result of news about President Obama's no-longer-secret Libya finding and the possibility of the U.S. arming anti-Qaddafi rebels:
If we are not there for regime change imposed by foreign powers, as the president has insisted, on what grounds is this even being discussed? Okay, we prevented a massacre; and we will continue to prevent massacres from the air so far as is possible under UN 1973. That is a noble, if risky endeavor.

But that emphatically must be where this war ends. No arms, no troops, and no more CIA shenanigans (God help us).

This secret shift to full-on entanglement is also, to my mind, a well-meant but ill-conceived undermining of the Arab Spring. Regime change by force of foreign arms is not a democratic revolution; it is the imposition by foreign powers of their agenda in the service of groups we do not know or understand - and will never know and never fully understand. It actually wrests power away from Libyans and gives it to Westerners, perpetuating a dependency the Arab spring has finally been able to break from. It is, to put it simply, messing with the momentum of history, the real balance of power in the region. And if this has been done covertly already, if the president has bypassed Congress, the American people, and the UN and has already secretly armed the rebels, then we need to get more than angry. To have a third war foisted on us - this time by by secretive fiat - requires serious protest from the president's core supporters more than anyone. This nascent war needs to be nipped firmly in the bud.

Have these people learned nothing? This is a dumb war, as someone once said. And it could wreck, derail and distract Obama's presidency.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Obama's Optimism

Steven Metz:
Obama’s foreign policy worldview, like all others, is no stronger than its assumptions: that the Arab Spring will prove positive for both the Arab world and the United States, and that the international community will play a major role in nurturing it. If these assumptions hold, then Obama’s scaled-back approach to American leadership will enable the world to become a better and safer place. If not, dark days lay ahead.

Which, Mitch?

Kevin Drum (at "Mother Jones") jumps on board The Episconixonian's Daniels in 2016 bandwagon, since if the Indiana governor runs in 2012: does he get through the primaries? When he hops over to Iowa, they'll expect him to denounce sharia law, make jokes about Obama's Kenyan birth, throw himself wholeheartedly into the culture wars, pretend that global warming is a liberal conspiracy, and make dire remarks about the specter of socialism taking over America. In other words, he'll have to act like a public clown, and if he doesn't do it, he'll lose.
I say here, now: In 2012, it's Obama vs. Bachmann.
Hat tip to "The Daily Dish"

They Want To Take A Michigander

Now a conservative think tank in the mitten wants to read professors' mail, to find out if they helped organize labor demonstrations in Wisconsin. I wonder what all these nosy parkers would do if public employees started using their personal e-mail accounts and computers.


President Obama's new energy policy is out of gas on arrival.

The Big Graboske

Hat tip to former Nixon Project tapes specialist Maarja Krusten for the link at a web board frequented by her archival peeps.

Naftali Is Not The New Graboske

Tomorrow's opening of a new Watergate exhibit at the Nixon library in Yorba Linda should bring to an end a generation of courtroom and backroom wrangling over the residue of modern history's most comprehensive political scandal. In the 1980s, the argument was about what scholars and researchers would see in the archives instead of what the public would see in presidential museums. But in both cases, the same principle may well hold. Full disclosure for Nixon might end up facilitating full disclosure for his successors, and what prudent president would want that?

In the late 1980s, historian Maarja Krusten (shown below) was part of a team at the National Archives headed by Fred Graboske that prepared Nixon's White House tapes to be opened to the public. As they finished their work, NARA was under pressure from President Nixon and his lawyers (I was then his chief of staff) to slow down the process. Our argument was that, new laws and regulations notwithstanding, Nixon had a moral right to expect his materials to be handled more or less like those of predecessors such as Kennedy and Johnson, whose more controversial records, including tapes, remained under tight family control.

We were fighting a losing battle. Most in the federal government, the media, and academe seemed to believe that Watergate, Nixon's resignation, and congressional action had made him sui generis when it came to how his records would be processed.

That all changed in 1989 in the George H. W. Bush administration under archivist of the U.S. Don Wilson and his presidential libraries deputy, John Fawcett, a veteran of the LBJ library in Austin. We were assured that Nixon did deserve some grace after all, that the new laws and regulations actually did permit him to have something approximating the latitude that pre-reform presidents and their families enjoyed when it came to his most sensitive and controversial records.

To say that we were pleased is an understatement. And yet in politics, good news for one person is almost always bad news for someone else. The government's policy change had come at an awkward time, since Graboske's team had completed its work on the tapes, the most explosive records of all. You can study the nuances at Krusten's blog, NixoNARA, but the upshot seems to be that rather than saying to the award-winning Graboske and his colleagues that they'd done well but that the brass had decided to put the tapes back on a shelf for a decent interval, NARA officials decided the tapes needed to be re-reviewed. In other words, the tape review team, it was suggested, had done an inadequate job.

A few years later, after University of Wisconsin professor Stanley Kutler had sued Nixon and NARA to pry loose additional so-called abuse of power tapes that processors had identified, court proceedings as analyzed by Krusten show that the government wasn't entirely on the government's side:
Not only did the government not admit in 1992 that it had considered the Graobske-era processing final, despite contemporaneous documents showing it repeatedly used that term, lawyers working for the George H. W. Bush Department of Justice (DOJ) made selective use in their pleadings of information gathered in the discovery phase of the litigation. They rarely if ever quoted witnesses such as I, who had stated under oath that Graboske displayed no prejudice or bias against Nixon and never had said the president “has no privacy.”
Looking back, I've found it astonishing how solicitous the first Bush administration was toward 37, who had almost no policy or political leverage outside of his trademark issue of foreign policy. I doubt that it was an act of friendship by an incumbent to a former, since the Nixon-Bush relationship struck me as cordial but cool. Another possibility -- and here is where journalists and historians must go where bloggers rarely tread -- is whether the Bush administration had come to the natural-enough conclusion that slowing down the train delivering former President Nixon's records to scholars might have been a helpful precedent for future formers.

If so, the records battle was finally lost (or won, depending on one's perspective). We settled the Kutler lawsuit after Nixon's death in 1994, paving the way for the tapes to be opened by the early 2000s (they'll finally be entirely open in 2012). Presidential records are now managed according to congressional and agency mandates, and while there will always be judgment calls and controversies, the process has been largely regularized for presidents both Republican and Democratic.

But that still leaves the curatorial side of presidential libraries' work and the possible perceived precedent of the no-holds-barred Watergate exhibit that former archivist of the U.S. Allen Weinstein commissioned from the first federal director of the Nixon library, Cold War scholar Tim Naftali. In 2009, the Nixon foundation approached the other private library foundations and tried to get them to criticize Nixon's federal director for inviting Watergate figure John Dean to give a speech. The obvious intent was to panic friends of other formers into thinking that Uncle Sam's John Dean event in Yorba Linda presaged a keynote by special prosecutor Ken Starr in Little Rock and other post-White House horrors. As Naftali proceeded with planning the Watergate exhibit, did those controlling Nixon's foundation try yet again to rally the post-presidential faithful by raising fearful specters of worst-case museum cases: Displays featuring Monica's dress at Clinton, even more room for Iran-contra (a worse scandal than Watergate, some believe) at Reagan, and alleged Bush-Cheney torture policies at Texas's newest presidential library?

If so, then one can imagine that considerable pressure may have been brought to bear on Naftali over the last couple of years. But at least we can say that he's not the new Graboske, because the exhibit's opening tomorrow.

Remember Budapest 1956

Fred Kaplan liked President Obama's Libya speech --

Obama's main point was this: When, as he put it, "our interests and values are at stake," and when taking military action a) carries few risks, b) costs little, and c) may reap huge benefits, both political and humanitarian, then such action is worth taking even if the interests involved aren't quite vital.

-- except for the last bit:
There is...something worrisome about the final minutes of Obama's speech, which took flight into lofty sentiments about America's pledge of a helping hand "for all those yearning for freedom around the world." After the finely measured passages about the need to weigh our values and our interests, this finale comes off as troublingly open-ended—and perhaps dangerously encouraging to some of the world's would-be rebels who should know that, really, we're not going to come help them when their brutal dictators' bullets start to fly.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Two Sources

Watergate reporter Bob Woodward and former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee are coming to the Nixon library on April 18.

Chapin Away At The Truth

The Nixon foundation's campaign against the Nixon library's new Watergate exhibit became public in an Aug. 6, 2010 New York Times article. The foundation has now published a portion of its 132-page complaint, dated Aug. 2. Among other things, Nixon's White House aides criticize library director Tim Naftali's use of his oral history interviews with, well, Nixon's White House aides, including some involved in Watergate or Watergate-related activities.

Naftali's subjects all signed gift and release forms, which the foundation described as follows:
We note that the “Gift” document conveys the interview to NARA “for eventual deposit” with NARA and that the Donor’s wish is that the “Interview be made available for research as soon as possible, and to the fullest extent possible, following its deposit with NARA."
The foundation's argument is that even though the interviewees agreed that their comments should be made available to researchers and scholars to the fullest extent possible, they shouldn't have been been available to Naftali, the researcher and scholar whom the archivist of the United States asked to assemble a Watergate exhibit. The foundation refers to Naftali's proposed exhibit videos as "snippets" and "brief excerpts."

I guess it depends on what you mean by snippet. The videos and White House tape segments which Naftali had chosen for the exhibit have been available for months at Among them is a two-minute, 40-second super-snippet in which Dwight Chapin, who organized dirty tricks for the 1972 Nixon campaign, claims that President Nixon was present when Chapin was ordered to ramp up. Chapin says:
One day the buzzer goes off, and I go into the president’s office, and he’s sitting there with [chief of staff Bob] Haldeman. And they say, “Do you know—“ -- by they, Bob says it, the president’s sitting there – “Do you know anyone who can do Dick Tuck-type stuff? We should have somebody like that.”
Chapin describes hiring Donald Segretti, his USC roommate, and arranging for Nixon's personal attorney, Herb Kalmbach, to pay him. Chapin continues:
I gave [Segretti] some direction. I aimed him at [Democratic candidates] Muskie…[and] Humphrey…He went and innovated and did whatever he did…I never questioned this, because to me, Dick Tuck had always been— This had been part of what I had grown up with….Their request to have a Dick Tuck type-guy was not that insane of an idea. Now you can look at it and say, “You mean to tell me the president of the United States is sitting in his office with his chief of staff; you’re coming in there; and they’re talking about dirty tricks stuff and there’s a Vietnam war and why the hell aren’t they running the war and why are they focused on this stuff?” Can’t answer that. I mean, we had all been in campaigns. Nixon had always had this little rinky-dink crap pulled on him….I don’t know what prompted it that made them buzz me in there, but I went in, that’s what they asked me to do, and that’s what I did. It’s not a good excuse, but that’s what I did.
Watch the video here. Chapin's charge is explosive. During the long months of Watergate in 1973-74, Senate, House, and special prosecutor investigators tried but failed to obtain evidence of Nixon's direct involvement in arranging campaign dirty tricks.

It's also important to remember that Chapin did federal time for perjury. He doesn't say when he was buzzed into Nixon's office, but if it was after February 1971, when the taping system was installed, then the conversation would've been recorded. No such tape has turned up so far, except Chapin and Naftali's. When the new Watergate exhibit is unveiled on Thursday, it will be interesting to see whether those now controlling Nixon's foundation have managed to persuade the National Archives to withhold Chapin's interview and, perhaps, others (such as White House aide Fred Malek's unrepentant conversation with Naftali about counting the number of Jews at the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

If Chapin himself has had second thoughts about his late hit on Nixon, he was well positioned to have an influence on the exhibit's final contents. We also learn from the foundation's Aug. 2 memo that a member of the five-person task force brought on board to critique Naftali's work was none other than Dwight Chapin.

Casting A "Godspell" At St. John's

St. John's seventh grader Olivia Thomas belts out a solo during this afternoon's "Godspell" rehearsal. The 1970 musical by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak will be the first middle school annual production to be staged in our beautiful church since its consecration in 2003. Four performances, April 7-10; ticket information here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

War And African-American Equality

In a new book, historian David Goldfield asks whether the sin of slavery in the U.S. could have been erased by some means short of the savagery of the Civil War. Reviewer and Columbia University professor Andrew Delbanco thinks not, though he does see a correlation between U.S. Grant's bloody times and today's take-no-prisoners, unconditional- surrender politics:
Throughout Goldfield’s book, one sees the present peeping through the past. In his allergy to the infusion of religion into politics, and his regret over the failure of government to achieve compromise, he sometimes seems to be writing as much about our own time as about time past. Yet even looking through his eyes, one finds it hard to imagine that the post-Civil War constitutional amendments by which black citizenship rights were advanced could ever have been ratified if the slave states had remained in the Union. The “secession war,” as Walt Whitman called it, would seem to have been a necessary prelude to the process of securing black equality — a process still unfinished ­today.

My Faith Has Been ReKindled

The initial New York Times announcement about charging for access to its web site dissed us Kindle subsKribers. This just in from Amazon:
As an active New York Times subscriber on Kindle, we are pleased to let you know that you will receive access (exclusive of premium crosswords, full archives, and other premium offers), at no additional charge, to The New York Times website, While the date for this access has yet to be determined, Amazon and The New York Times are working together to enable this subscriber benefit as soon as possible. If you are an active subscriber, you will receive an email with instructions on how to activate your access to The New York Times website as soon as it’s available.

Legitimate Inquiry Or Harassment?

The Wisconsin GOP wants to read a professor's e-mail.

Reordering The Universe

Ben Smith profiles my former colleague Steve Clemons, founding executive director of the Nixon Center (I took this photo of Steve with the ambassador of Singapore, Chan Heng Chee, at the last Center dinner I attended in 2009; with typical graciousness, he was squatting):

The 6-foot-5, same-sex-married son of an Air Force master sergeant is the quintessential Washington figure for the new age: a self-made, uncredentialed blogger and social butterfly, intellectual entrepreneur, name-dropper and media networker. He’s both a very new kind of Washington figure — his Washington Note cracked the foreign policy establishment open for the blogosphere back in 2004 — and a very old one, the spiritual descendant of great Washington hostesses like Pamela Harriman and the nearest thing to an inheritor of the largely dead, civil, bipartisan salon of the old foreign policy elite.

“Steve is a really important part of the foreign policy universe, and he deserves a huge amount of credit for reordering that universe,” said David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lest Not We Be Judged

A Presbyterian minister (now working in the Alaska legislature) says his position on homosexuality and gay marriage began to change when he got to know gay people:
It became clear to me that none of these men had chosen to be gay, just as I had never chosen to be heterosexual. How could I condemn someone for something that was really not their fault? Meanwhile, I was experiencing the slow disintegration of my own marriage. Needless to say, it was hard for me to condemn anyone else for their relationships when mine was in such bad shape. I began moving closer to the center. If homosexuality was a "sin," I wanted to add an asterisk to it.

Toward the end of my parish ministry, I was approached by five individuals who demanded that I do a sermon to come out strong against any acceptance of gays and lesbians in the church. They wanted to hear what the Bible said on the issue. The funny thing was, all five of them were divorced and remarried. Had I done a sermon on what the Bible said about divorce, every one of them would have left the church in a huff.

Dogs And Cats Living Together, Mass Hysteria

The Christian Post:
Nearly six in ten white evangelical respondents believe that natural disasters are signs from God, according to the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service news poll. By comparison, only about one-third of Catholics (31 percent) and mainline Protestants (34 percent) believe that natural disasters are signs from God.

Not Arguing With Success

As Libyan rebels advance on Tripoli, Andrew Sullivan, who opposed President Obama's intervention, is eating crow. Me, too.