Nixon’s final war, waged even to this day by some former aides and historical revisionists, aims to play down the significance of Watergate and present it as a blip on the president’s record. Nixon lived for 20 years after his resignation and worked tirelessly to minimize the scandal.
Though he accepted a full pardon from President Gerald Ford, Nixon insisted that he had not participated in any crimes. In his 1977 television interviews with British journalist David Frost, he said that he had “let the American people down” but that he had not obstructed justice. “I didn’t think of it as a coverup. I didn’t intend a coverup. Let me say, if I intended the coverup, believe me, I would have done it.”
In his 1978 memoir “RN,” Nixon addressed his role in Watergate: “My actions and omissions, while regrettable and possibly indefensible, were not impeachable.” Twelve years later, in his book “In the Arena,” he decried a dozen “myths” about Watergate and claimed that he was innocent of many of the charges made against him. One myth, he said, was that he ordered the payment of hush money to Hunt and others. Yet, the March 21, 1973, tape shows that he ordered Dean to get the money 12 times.
Even now, there are old Nixon hands and defenders who dismiss the importance of Watergate or claim that key questions remain unanswered. This year, Thomas Mallon, director of the creative writing program at George Washington University, published a novel called “Watergate,” a sometimes witty and entirely fictional story featuring many of the real players. Frank Gannon, a former Nixon White House aide who now works for the Nixon Foundation, reviewed the book for the Wall Street Journal…
Of course, Gannon is correct in noting that there are some unanswered questions — but not the big ones. By focusing on the supposed paucity of details concerning the burglary of June 17, 1972, he would divert us from the larger story.
And about that story, there is no need to guess.
In the summer of 1974, it was neither the press nor the Democrats who rose up against Nixon, but the president’s own Republican Party.