Monday, April 23, 2012

The Bad Boys Of Watergate

While Chuck Colson didn't apologize to Daniel Ellsberg, he did to John Dean. Dean writes:
While there is little Chuck and I agreed about politically, we have had a long friendship based on mutual respect. While together in the custody of the U.S. Marshals at a safe house at Fort Holabird, Maryland, Chuck and I set aside our difference. He admitted he had tried to destroy me to defend Richard Nixon, and apologized. Begrudgingly he said that no one could have blown up the Watergate cover up better while taking his onslaught than yours truly, right down to figuring out that Nixon had taped us all. From Chuck, that was a compliment for there was a time when he was very good at destroying people.
Maybe that helps explain why he was good at the reverse, and helping broken people find a new life in the teachings of the Bible.
It's appropriate, in a way, that Watergate's bad boys found one another. Many of Nixon's other White House operatives despised Colson, who hired Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt, and Dean, who masterminded the coverup. These critics liked to say that the pair played to Nixon's dark side, while they would've been wise enough not to follow his most noxious orders. Such wisdom seems to have been scarcer than they now remember. Chief of staff Bob Haldeman (shown above at the Nixon library many years ago with my godson, Harry Elliott, and me and at right with Nixon) always claimed that his meticulous staff structure would've prevented Watergate. Yet Haldeman's own factotums, on his instructions, sicced the FBI on journalists, launched dirty tricks, and counted Jews in the federal government.

Historians, journalists, Congress, and federal archivists have always categorized these abuses of government power under the rubric of Watergate. In their unsuccessful war during 2009-11 against former Nixon library director Tim Naftali, the Haldeman acolytes now in control of Nixon's foundation (aided by a sitting U.S. senator, former White House operative Lamar Alexander) tried to reduce Watergate to a somewhat mysterious, botched burglary and brief coverup. Their definition (not adopted by Naftali and the National Archives) would have pinned the worst raps on Colson, Dean, and of course Nixon (whom history blames most of all) while letting Haldeman and his loyalists off the hook. It helps you understand why Naftali called it the Haldeman foundation.


Unknown said...

Fascinating stuff,John.

Bill Fisher said...

Cool! What did Haldeman talk about at the library when you knew him?

Fr. John said...

As I recall, Haldeman, in a meeting with high school journalists, endorsed the revisionist theory in the book Silent Coup that John Dean was at the root of all Watergate evil.