After leaving government, I went out and talked to business groups. . . . many of whom thought, and still think, "Why doesn’t the Government run like business?” . . . I said, "Imagine your board of directors comprising your customers, your suppliers, your employees, and your competitors. Now, how are you going to run your business?"And then this important reflection on CEO Nixon himself:
Nixon was an intelligent and well-read man, someone who might have made a good history professor, as David Gergen once observed. I can’t speak to what led to his darker side, the side that made him ask Fred Malek to undertake Jew counting at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I don’t know if in different circumstances, and absent the Vietnam war, he might have kept that part in check or not. As to his downfall, we may never know everything about Watergate. (A new book offers some startling allegations about the “third rate burglary” at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.) What matters is that he need not have covered up the portion of the Watergate story of which he was aware. It’s important to remember that it was a different age, when executives clung more tightly to managerial infallibility than they do now.It's absolutely true that Nixon trusted his management system, and it helped destroy him. As one of our most profoundly introverted presidents, he organized his White House to make it easy to limit the number of people he would see. To get the information he so desperately needed about Watergate, he naturally turned to his coterie of aides, people such Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, John Dean, Chuck Colson, and Dwight Chapin -- all bound for federal prison.
Nixon wasn't blameless. Many of his aides thought they were doing what he wanted. But as Maarja suggests, he might've been more attentive to his own accountability and thereby saved his presidency if he hadn't been surrounded by men who were principally concerned with protecting themselves.