It’s an old story: dirty campaign tricks, lies, voter fraud, political surveillance, wiretaps and enemy lists. Every President in the baby boomer years did it.
Yes, but Nixon did the crimes better. True, he never dallied with an intern or had an affair with a Mafia call girl trying to extract pillow talk (JFK).
It began with 20 key people. Then there was a Master List with hundreds of names that changed constantly. Most baby boomers were too young to qualify, but lots of their older heroes and mentors appeared. A third list in 1972 contained 576 McGovern supporters and staffers.
Was Nixon paranoid? Perhaps, but he did have more enemies than other politicians.
Richard Nixon on the Whittier College football team
The list was not simply for informational purposes. John Dean, White House Counsel to the President at the tender age of 30, explained the plan: “This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly—how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”
The notation after the leader of Common Cause stated: “A scandal would most helpful here.”
For the main Democratic Party advertising agency: “They should be hit hard.”
John Conyers was then a young Congressman. “Coming on fast,” the comments warned. “Emerging as a leading black anti-Nixon spokesman. Has known weakness for white females.”
The top aide for New York Mayor John Lindsey was described as “a first class S.O.B., wheeler-dealer and suspected bag man. Positive results would really shake Lindsey’s plan to capture youth vote.”
The only Hollywood personality to make the first draft was Paul Newman, described as heavily involved in “radical-lib causes.”
The Hollywood parade mushroomed and included, among others:
The complete list was eventually released by a contrite John Dean to the Congressional Watergate Committee.
• In his 1972 best-seller, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Hunter Thompson, the radical journalist, expressed great disappointment that he failed to appear.
• After serving time for Watergate offenses, John Dean turned his career around by turning his politics around. He authored Blind Ambition, Lost Honor, Worse Than Watergate (where he advocated the impeachment of George Bush), and Conservatives Without Conscience.
• Charles Colson, Special Counsel to the President, oversaw the enemies list. He was known as an “evil genius” and Nixon’s “hatchet man.” Colson became a born-again Christian while serving time for obstruction of justice. To this day, he continues his ministry, specializing in prison inmates.
• Daniel Schorr, a television newscaster, revealed the first-list names live on air in 1971 and was surprised to discover he was on it, described as “a real media enemy.” He had not seen the list before reading it in front of cameras. Mr. Schorr was very professional, showing little emotion during the broadcast.
Baby Boomer Trivia Questions
► Only one of the following made Nixon’s enemies list:
► What was the famous “smoking gun” in the Watergate scandal?
-Revelation that all conservations in the Oval Office were taped
-Chief of Staff Haldeman’s secret daily diary
-John Dean’s decision to testify in exchange for limited immunity
-The unofficial log book kept by Nixon’s personal secretary
Answers at end of post
Anthony Hopkins as Nixon
Richard Nixon Bon Mots
“Finishing second in the Olympics gets you silver. Finishing second in politics gets you oblivion.”
“Any lady who is first lady likes being first lady. I don’t care what they say, they like it.”
“By the time you get dressed, drive out there, play 18 holes and come home, you’ve blown seven hours. There are better things you can do with your time.”
“People react to fear, not love; they don’t teach that in Sunday School, but it’s true.”
Frank Langella in “Frost and Nixon“
Answers to Baby Boomer Trivia Questions
► George Wallace was placed on the enemies list, proving that President Nixon was was an equal opportunity picker. Why not George Harrison, but John Lennon? Probably an oversight or Nixon didn’t know who he was, or the rest of the Beatles just didn’t measure up.
► The smoking gun was a casual remark one day in the Watergate Hearings that an automatic, non-stop tape recording device operated in the Oval Office.