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When Did Nixon's Resignation Become Inevitable?


Dan Herrick
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I would like to know the opinions of members on this question:

When do you think Richard Nixon's resignation from the Presidency became inevitable? Why do you choose the time you choose?

Rather than just toss the questions out, I'll give my answer. I thought for a long time that it was the PR debacle of the Saturday Night Massacre that turned the corner and made it impossible for Nixon, in the end, to stay in office. But upon further reflection my answer is Butterfield's disclosure of the taping system, because once that came out publicly the tapes and their contents became a legal issue that Nixon couldn't avoid (and Buzhardt and Garment and Wright and St Clair couldn't solve). Once the existence of the tapes was public knoweldge, it was too late to destroy the tapes and only a matter of time before their contents became known. In particular of course was the "use the CIA to obfuscate the FBI" tape which was the final nail in the coffin in August 1974. Indeed, it is amazing to me that Butterfield's testimony was in July 1973 and Nixon lasted 13 more months.

Your thoughts?

Thanks,

Dan

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I would like to know the opinions of members on this question:

When do you think Richard Nixon's resignation from the Presidency became inevitable? Why do you choose the time you choose?

Rather than just toss the questions out, I'll give my answer. I thought for a long time that it was the PR debacle of the Saturday Night Massacre that turned the corner and made it impossible for Nixon, in the end, to stay in office. But upon further reflection my answer is Butterfield's disclosure of the taping system, because once that came out publicly the tapes and their contents became a legal issue that Nixon couldn't avoid (and Buzhardt and Garment and Wright and St Clair couldn't solve). Once the existence of the tapes was public knoweldge, it was too late to destroy the tapes and only a matter of time before their contents became known. In particular of course was the "use the CIA to obfuscate the FBI" tape which was the final nail in the coffin in August 1974. Indeed, it is amazing to me that Butterfield's testimony was in July 1973 and Nixon lasted 13 more months.

Your thoughts?

Thanks,

Dan

Dan, I don't have a Watergate Chronology in front of me, but I say that it was before the replaced Spiro Agnew with Gerald Ford, as once the end of Nixon was inevitable, they knew they couldn't let Agnew in there because he was worse.

BK

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My speculation is that Nixon's resignation -- better yet, pre-term-ending removal from office -- became a fait accompli prior to the Watergage break-in, which was undertaken, at least in part, as the initiating event of a "silent coup."

What prompted such a move? I'm afraid we'll never know for certain. All I'm prepared to say is that Nixon as president posed a threat to his masters and/or was perceived to be most valuable as a sacrifice on the "The System Works" altar of illusion.

Wish I could be more definitive.

Edited by Charles Drago
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June 23rd 1972 when he decided to push the envelope in his struggle with Helms-- to get the CIA to stop the FBI inquiry-- even though he knew that Helms had at least as many intercontinental balistic mothers (which can lead to NSC incontinence) as Nixon had for use against the CIA.

Also, good question.

Edited by Nathaniel Heidenheimer
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My speculation is that Nixon's resignation -- better yet, pre-term-ending removal from office -- became a fait accompli prior to the Watergage break-in, which was undertaken, at least in part, as the initiating event of a "silent coup."

What prompted such a move? I'm afraid we'll never know for certain. All I'm prepared to say is that Nixon as president posed a threat to his masters and/or was perceived to be most valuable as a sacrifice on the "The System Works" altar of illusion.

Wish I could be more definitive.

"Not for nothing" as we sometimes say in Boston....who do you suggest were Nixon's "masters"?

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My speculation is that Nixon's resignation -- better yet, pre-term-ending removal from office -- became a fait accompli prior to the Watergage break-in, which was undertaken, at least in part, as the initiating event of a "silent coup."

What prompted such a move? I'm afraid we'll never know for certain. All I'm prepared to say is that Nixon as president posed a threat to his masters and/or was perceived to be most valuable as a sacrifice on the "The System Works" altar of illusion.

Wish I could be more definitive.

During the Watergate Scandal Nixon became concerned about the activities of the CIA. Three of those involved in the burglary, E. Howard Hunt, Eugenio Martinez and James W. McCord had close links with the agency. Nixon and his aides attempted to force the CIA director, Richard Helms, and his deputy, Vernon Walters, to pay hush-money to Hunt, who was attempting to blackmail the government. Although it seemed Walters was willing to do this, Helms refused. In February, 1973, Nixon sacked Helms. His deputy, Thomas H. Karamessines, resigned in protest.

James Schlesinger now became the new director of the CIA. Schlesinger was heard to say: “The clandestine service was Helms’s Praetorian Guard. It had too much influence in the Agency and was too powerful within the government. I am going to cut it down to size.” This he did and over the next three months over 7 per cent of CIA officers lost their jobs.

On 9th May, 1973, Schlesinger issued a directive to all CIA employees: “I have ordered all senior operating officials of this Agency to report to me immediately on any activities now going on, or might have gone on in the past, which might be considered to be outside the legislative charter of this Agency. I hereby direct every person presently employed by CIA to report to me on any such activities of which he has knowledge. I invite all ex-employees to do the same. Anyone who has such information should call my secretary and say that he wishes to talk to me about “activities outside the CIA’s charter”.

There were several employees who had been trying to complain about the illegal CIA activities for some time. As Cord Meyer pointed out, this directive “was a hunting license for the resentful subordinate to dig back into the records of the past in order to come up with evidence that might destroy the career of a superior whom he long hated.”

I believe it was this Schlesinger directive that encouraged senior CIA operatives to leak information to Bob Woodward about Nixon's attempt to cover-up the Watergate Scandal. On 16th May, 1973, Deep Throat had an important meeting with Woodward where he provided information that was to destroy Nixon. This includes the comment that the Senate Watergate Committee should consider interviewing Alexander P. Butterfield. Soon afterwards Woodward told a staff member of the committee (undoubtedly his friend, Scott Armstrong) that Butterfield should be asked to testify before Sam Ervin.

On 25th June, 1973, John Dean testified that at a meeting with Richard Nixon on 15th April, the president had remarked that he had probably been foolish to have discussed his attempts to get clemency for E. Howard Hunt with Charles Colson. Dean concluded from this that Nixon's office might be bugged. On Friday, 13th July, Butterfield appeared before the committee and was asked about if he knew whether Nixon was recording meetings he was having in the White House. Butterfield reluctantly admitted details of the tape system which monitored Nixon's conversations.

By this stage Nixon realized he had made a terrible mistake appointing Schlesinger as Director of the CIA. After just three months Nixon decided to replace him with William Colby. Once again the CIA was being led by an insider.

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