Friday, August 13, 2010

Strip Search

Politicians love to collect the original art of editorial cartoons in which they feature, and Richard Nixon's domestic affairs advisor, John D. Ehrlichman, although doomed, was no different. In February 1973, not long before Nixon fired him over Watergate, Ehrlichman wrote to Garry Trudeau asking for a Doonsbury strip parodying Nixon's relative disinterest in domestic affairs. The letter was released last month by the Nixon library. Read a blogger's sardonic take here.

I met with Ehrlichman many years ago at the library, when he was trying to enlist our support for a TV project on the scandal. He died in 1999. He always blamed Nixon for making the decision for which he went to jail: Over Labor Day weekend in 1971, sending burglars to get dirt on Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. Scholars Stanley Kutler and Rick Perlstein have also tried to pin the Ellsberg caper on the chief. After all, it's the Watergate mother lode. If Nixon had even known about it at the time, it would tend to put a criminal coloration on his Watergate actions and statements beginning in June 1972. But none -- neither scholars nor self-serving aides -- has actually made the case.


Rick Perlstein said...

On the broader question of "criminal coloration": where would people get that idea?

Fr. John said...

Not the first time you've elided from a pesky narrow point of fact to a broader wisdom understood by you:

On the question of what Nixon actually did beyond being really angry at Daniel Ellsberg, there's just no evidence he ordered or knew about the Fielding job. And that's important, because Howard Baker's question is still apropos when it comes to Nixon and Watergate.

Dr. Taylor