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The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate


Douglas Caddy
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James Rosen’s book, The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate

I had wanted to read James Rosen’s book soon after its release in 2008. However, because I was working with Robert Merritt on our own book about Watergate, Robert and I decided not to read any books or major publications dealing with the scandal until our work was finished. This was because we wanted our product to reflect what we knew personally about Watergate and not be influenced by anything we read elsewhere.

About a month ago the publisher, Trineday, sent to print our book, Watergate Exposed: How the President of the United States and the Watergate Burglars Were Set Up, and it has now been distributed to Amazon and bookstores. This allowed me at long last to turn my attention to Mr. Rosen’s book, which I have just finished reading.

My review will be brief. As long as there is a United States of America, there will be interest in what happened in Watergate, what really occurred. It is my opinion, having now read The Strong Man, that Mr. Rosen’s book will be considered as being among the very few books that are definitive on the subject. Historians will be obligated to consult it, not only because it is meticulously documented but also because Mr. Rosen is an extremely talented writer and the reader’s interest never flags. In summary, anyone who wishes to learn what really happened in Watergate, what really occurred must read The Strong Man.

As a postscript, and in no way to detract from the authoritative information compiled by Mr. Rosen, I wish to announce that soon, on or about March 15, I shall post an article on the Education Forum that contains new revelations about Watergate that will go far towards understanding the circumstances surrounding the break-in at the Democratic National Committee on June 17, 1972. The heretofore unrevealed information was acquired since publication a month ago of Watergate Exposed.

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My review will be brief. As long as there is a United States of America, there will be interest in what happened in Watergate, what really occurred. It is my opinion, having now read The Strong Man, that Mr. Rosen’s book will be considered as being among the very few books that are definitive on the subject. Historians will be obligated to consult it, not only because it is meticulously documented but also because Mr. Rosen is an extremely talented writer and the reader’s interest never flags. In summary, anyone who wishes to learn what really happened in Watergate, what really occurred must read The Strong Man.

Could you give us some idea of what Rosen argues in his book? Unfortunately, Amazon does not have a review or summary of the book.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Strong-Man-Mitchell-Secrets-Watergate/dp/0385508646/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1299656545&sr=1-1

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My review will be brief. As long as there is a United States of America, there will be interest in what happened in Watergate, what really occurred. It is my opinion, having now read The Strong Man, that Mr. Rosen’s book will be considered as being among the very few books that are definitive on the subject. Historians will be obligated to consult it, not only because it is meticulously documented but also because Mr. Rosen is an extremely talented writer and the reader’s interest never flags. In summary, anyone who wishes to learn what really happened in Watergate, what really occurred must read The Strong Man.

Could you give us some idea of what Rosen argues in his book? Unfortunately, Amazon does not have a review or summary of the book.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Strong-Man-Mitchell-Secrets-Watergate/dp/0385508646/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1299656545&sr=1-1

John, you can check it out here: http://books.google.com/books?id=fHIGQTGemnAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=james+rosen+the+strong+man&source=bl&ots=Ru8sIFvgfH&sig=jJ3QhOQHIPu5GgoswPg63uJDlwQ&hl=en&ei=lq13TfLFOJSTtwezndCpDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&sqi=2&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false

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Thank you Michael. This is interesting:

Editorial Review - Publishers Weekly vol. 254 iss. 51 p. 42 © 12/24/2007

Casting the 66th attorney general and Watergate felon as the most upright man in the Nixon administration is faint praise indeed, to judge by this biography. Fox News correspondent Rosen applauds Mitchell for his tough law-and-order policies, school-desegregation efforts and hard line against leftist radicals, and for enduring wife Martha's alcoholic breakdowns and raving late-night phone calls to reporters. The book's heart is Rosen's meticulous, exhaustively researched study of Mitchell's Watergate role, absolving him of ordering the break-in and most other charges leveled against him. Instead, Mitchell is painted as a force for propriety who was framed by others—especially White House counsel John Dean, who comes off as Watergate's evil genius. (Rosen also claims Watergate burglar James McCord was secretly working for the CIA and deliberately sabotaged the break-in.) Unfortunately, Rosen's salutes to Mitchell's integrity and reverence for the law clash with his accounts of the man's misdeeds: undermining the Paris peace talks, suborning and committing perjury, tolerating the criminal scheming in Nixon's White House and re-election campaign. Mitchell may have blanched at the Nixon administration's sleazy intrigues, as Rosen insists, but he seems not to have risen above them.

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Rosen's biography of John Mitchell is a tour de force of investigative reporting, at once insightful and meticulously well-documented. His account of the Watergate affair - including the sinister role played by James McCord, the involvement of the CIA, and the importance of the Democrats' link to the call-girl operation at the Columbia Plaza Apartments - is much the same as my own. (See Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA). Even so, Rosen adds enormously to the story, mining a previously unavailable trove of materials generated by litigation inspired by John Dean in what turns out to have been the juridical equivalent of an own goal. (See Dean vs. St. Martin's Press and Wells vs. Liddy).

That Rosen exonerates Mitchell from the accusation that it was he who ordered the Watergate break-in(s) is true. And it's also just. Whatever sins Mitchell may have committed - and Mitchell himself would have been the first to admit that there were many - authorizing the Watergate break-in(s) was not one of them. Simply put, he was railroaded.

If I were pressed to disagree with any aspect of Rosen's analysis, it would probably be with his take on the Washington police officer who was most responsible for the Watergate arrests - Carl Shoffler. I knew Shoffler well (or thought I did) and am convinced that he was tipped off to the June 17 break-in. It's an issue I raised in the book that I wrote, and which Shoffler's undercover informant, Robert Merritt, has recently corroborated (with the help of the burglars' attorney, Douglas Caddy).

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MY REVIEW OF JAMES ROSEN’S BOOK, THE STRONG MAN: JOHN MITCHELL AND THE SECRETS OF WATERGATE

James Rosen wisely chose Attorney General John Mitchell as the subject of his book. It allowed him to trace the life of a controversial but remarkable man and at the same time provide an account of what really happened in Watergate in which Mitchell played a key role, albeit one that ended in tragedy with his conviction and incarceration. His book is definitive on the subject and his style of writing is to be admired.

Mitchell was a graduate of Fordham University where he was a member of the golf team whose captain was Malcolm Wilson, who later became the Governor of New York. (I served on Malcolm Wilson’s staff when he was Lieutenant Governor.) While still in law school Mitchell conceived the tax-exempt municipal housing bond and by doing so earned large commissions from the law firm with which he was associated that provided legal opinions on the bonds to municipalities that rushed to issue them. So successful was Mitchell in his bond endeavor that in 1942 the law firm made him a partner and added his name to the firm’s name. Two years later he reported for duty in the Navy and saw service in the Pacific theater where he ultimately was promoted from Ensign to Lieutenant Junior Grade. After the war he returned to Wall Street to practice law and by 1960 was ranked among the nation’s elite lawyers.

After his defeat in the race for Governor of California in 1962, Richard Nixon headed east and joined a law firm that in 1966 merged with Mitchell’s firm, among whose clients was Governor Nelson Rockefeller. The firm’s new name was Nixon Mudge Rose Gutherie Alexander and Mitchell.

Nixon, in awe of Mitchell as a person and of his capabilities, appointed him campaign manager for his 1968 presidential campaign. The election was close and Nixon’s victory over Hubert Humphrey was credited by a large degree to Mitchell’s organizational skills and sage advice. Soon after the election Mitchell reluctantly agreed to take leave from his lucrative Wall Street law practice to become Attorney General.

Because the Vietnam War was still being waged, Mitchell faced many challenges in his new position. Rosen states that “Mitchell may have authorized the government’s counterinsurgency against the New Left, but the executioners of his policy often acted without his knowledge or consent.” Mitchell was later found to be totally unaware of the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO, a covert and often illegal campaign to infiltrate and disrupt targeted groups deemed to be a threat to the national security. The May Day riot in Washington, D.C. in 1971 saw more than 12,000 persons arrested in the anti-war demonstration. Most of the criminal charges against those arrested were later dropped.

In 1971 Nixon began laying plans for his 1972 reelection campaign, which would be managed by Mitchell who was scheduled to resign as Attorney General in early 1972 to assume his campaign duties. However, the seeds of Watergate were planted when John Dean, Counsel to the President, escorted Gordon Liddy into the Attorney General’s office on November 24, 1971, for a brief meeting during which Liddy was appointed General Counsel to the Committee for the Reelection of the President. After the meeting, Dean ordered Liddy to draw up a comprehensive intelligence gathering plan for use in the ensuing campaign. On January 27, 1972, Dean, Liddy and Jeb Magruder, to whom Liddy reported, assembled in the Attorney General’s office for a presentation of Liddy’s wide-ranging plan, which he called Gemstone. Liddy, (using multi-color charts that had been drawn up by the CIA at Howard Hunt’s request!), proposed a complex scheme that included among other things illegal break-ins, wiretapping and bugs, prostitutes to seduce key Democrats, illegal photographing of documents, and sabotaging the air conditioning system at the Democrat national convention.

When Liddy was finished, Mitchell drily opined, “Gordon, that is not quite what I had in mind.” He was told to scale it down. The group assembled once again on February 4, 1972, in the Attorney General’s office where Liddy presented his revised version. Mitchell was less than enthusiastic at what he heard and politely told Liddy that he would get back to him on it. The final presentation took place on March 30, 1972, in Key Biscayne, Florida where Mitchell was on vacation with his family. This time is was Magruder by himself who presented a memo on the intelligence gathering plan to Mitchell. There is some dispute as to whether Mitchell gave his final approval of the plan that included a break-in at the Democratic National Committee. Magruder claimed that he did but Mitchell and his assistant, Fred LaRue who was also present, were adamant that he did not approve the plan in any of its aspects. LaRue later proclaimed that, “Basically, the guy that’s lying is Magruder.” The evidence seems to support LaRue’s assertion.

Nevertheless, within hours of the Key Biscayne meeting Magruder gave Liddy the long-awaited word to proceed and, without Mitchell’s authorization, approved $300,000 to implement the plan.

For the record it should be noted that Mitchell was never formally charged with ordering the Watergate break-in. In fact it was never determined in a court of law who did order the June 17, 1972, break-in of the DNC. Rosen notes that, “the Senate Watergate Committee’s final report devoted only four of its 1,250 pages to the break-in. It did not say who ordered the break-in.”

Rosen writes, “If Mitchell did not give the order, who did?” In attempting to answer this question Rosen reports that “in an interview in February 1990, Magruder was asked, 'If you thought it through now, what would you say to a direct question, "Who told you to go in?" ‘I’d say probably John Dean,’ he answered. Six months later he went even further. 'Mitchell didn’t do anything,’ he said. ‘All Mitchell did was just what I did, [which] was to acquiesce to the pressure from the White House. We [at the Committee for the Reelection of the President] didn’t do anything. We weren’t the initiators. Hell, the first plan that we got had been initiated by Dean…The target never came from Mitchell.’”

Liddy and his team, comprised of Howard Hunt, James McCord and the four Cuban-Americans recruited by Hunt, made two break-ins at the DNC. The first was on May 28 and was adjudged afterwards by Magruder to be less than a success in wire-tapping. So on June 12 Magruder ordered Liddy and his team to go back into the DNC. This they did on June 17, at which time McCord and the four Cuban-American were arrested inside the offices of the DNC.

Rosen identifies three members of the burglars’ team as being actively connected to the CIA: Hunt, McCord and Martinez. He writes “that Langley received Gemstone updates from Eugenio Martinez, independent of Hunt and McCord, was further confirmed in a previously unpublished memo dictated by CIA director Richard Helms on December 3, 1973….The role of the CIA in the collapse of the Nixon presidency was a subject of intense controversy during the Watergate era, and a mystery that bedeviled Mitchell to his grave. It reminded him of the [Admiral Thomas Moorer-Yeoman Charles Radford 13 month] spying conducted against the administration by the Joint Chief of Staff. ‘I’m sure the CIA knew more about Watergate than it’s ever come out,’ he told an interviewer in 1987; by the time he died, the former attorney general had concluded ‘the CIA was behind the whole thing.’”

Mitchell was correct in his assessment of Watergate as both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA. However, neither he nor Rosen knew of Crimson Rose, about which disclosure will be made by this writer on the Education Forum soon. This disclosure will confirm Mitchell’s worse fears.

Why did Magruder instruct Liddy on June 12 to go back into the DNC on the orders of Dean if Magruder is to be believed? Rosen reports that “On June 9, three days before Magruder’s order to Liddy, John Dean summoned two federal prosecutors to his White House office to brief him on their investigation into what had been dubbed, in that morning’s Washington Evening Star, a Capitol Hill call-girl ring. At one point in the meeting he asked to keep portions of the evidence in the case, a request the prosecutors, though awed by their surroundings, properly refused.” Dean had asked the prosecutors to bring the case file on the call-girl ring. From the file he asked to keep the ring manager’s “trick” book that contained the names of the “Johns” and the prostitutes. Both Liddy and Magruder had their own reasons for wanting to know what names were in the explosive “trick “book. They realized that disclosure of the names would have had a drastic and adverse effect on Nixon’s reelection campaign.

As Rosen reports, “One of the federal prosecutors summoned to Dean’s office that day subsequently testified that he had developed evidence that ‘employees at the DNC…were assisting in getting the Democrats connected with the prostitutes at Columbia Plaza,’ but that his investigation was ‘shut down’ in the summer of 1972 by the district’s U.S. attorney, who felt ‘the DNC should not be pursued, that it was a political time bomb.” Prominent Democrats and well as Republicans had a lot to lose if the investigation were not curtailed. An investigation would have led to persons on Capitol Hill, in the White House and in the Committee for the Reelection of the President, although Nixon, Haldeman, Erlichman and Mitchell had no knowledge of any of this.

After the case broke open, Nixon, Haldeman and Erlichman designated Dean to coordinate the White House response to the crisis. The led to the cover-up and the payment of hush money to those arrested. Dean had a vested interest in managing the cover-up although Nixon, Haldeman and Erlichman were not aware of this at the time they assigned the task to him. Dean’s interests ranged from his attendance at the meetings held in the Attorney General’s office at which Liddy’s Gemstone plan was discussed to the names of the persons connected to the call-girl prostitution ring that operated out of the Columbia Plaza Apartments, which was just across the street from the Watergate.

Rosen observes in his meticulously documented book that “Alexander Butterfield, the aide who saw Nixon more frequently than any other save Haldeman and who publicly disclosed the existence of the taping system [used by Nixon], acknowledged that the [tapes’] transcripts betrayed in the president ‘a seeming incoherence of speaking style.’ ‘One of the things that did strike me when I read the transcripts,’ agreed Magruder, ‘was that really how much – or how little –information [Nixon, Haldeman and Erlichman] really did have.’”

Rosen concludes that Dean through his conflicts of interests in Watergate, “ended Nixon’s and Mitchell’s careers, producing in the president both everlasting fury and regret (‘Oh, the incredible treachery of that son-of-a-bitch!’) and exposing the limitations of the mental machines that had propelled the older men, respectively, from Whittier and from Blue Point to the White House and Wall Street. Dean was younger, smarter, more tightly wired into the bureaucracy, and better versed in the origins, players, and events of Watergate. Against this backdrop commenced Nixon’s infamous series of meetings and phone calls with Dean – twenty in all, between February 27 and April 17 [1973] – that marked the endgame in the Watergate cover-up and changed the course of American history.”

To Rosen’s observation should be added a course that changed the lives of the American service men and women in Vietnam who either were killed or maimed because of Dean's role in the cover-up during this crucial period that paralyzed the Nixon presidency.

Nixon, while blaming Dean primarily for Watergate, also targeted Martha Mitchell whose antics in the four years of the initial Nixon administration bordered on certifiable insanity. Nixon told David Frost in his television interview in 1977 that “I am convinced that if it hadn’t been for Martha – and God rest her soul, because she in her heart was a good person. She just had a mental and emotional problem nobody knew about. If it hadn’t been for Martha, there’d have been no Watergate. Because John wasn’t minding that store. He was practically out of his mind about Martha in the spring of 1972! He was letting Magruder and all those boys, these kids, these nuts run this thing. The point of the matter is that if John had been watchin’ that store, Watergate would never have happened.”

That is the bottom line on the whole scandal.

Mitchell, a broken man financially and mentally, died on November 9, 1988, from a massive heart attack as he was walking to his home in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. Had he never met Richard Nixon he probably would have died with his reputation intact as one of the nation’s elite lawyers, possessed of great wealth.

Life is like a dream. No one knows what twists and turns the future holds. This is true for those who lead the most humble of lives to those who are at the pinnacle of wealth and power.

I shall be the first to acknowledge that this review does not do justice to James Rosen’s superb book, which will be read for many years to come by those who want to know what really happened in Watergate.

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Rosen's biography of John Mitchell is a tour de force of investigative reporting, at once insightful and meticulously well-documented. His account of the Watergate affair - including the sinister role played by James McCord, the involvement of the CIA, and the importance of the Democrats' link to the call-girl operation at the Columbia Plaza Apartments - is much the same as my own. (See Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA). Even so, Rosen adds enormously to the story, mining a previously unavailable trove of materials generated by litigation inspired by John Dean in what turns out to have been the juridical equivalent of an own goal. (See Dean vs. St. Martin's Press and Wells vs. Liddy).

That Rosen exonerates Mitchell from the accusation that it was he who ordered the Watergate break-in(s) is true. And it's also just. Whatever sins Mitchell may have committed - and Mitchell himself would have been the first to admit that there were many - authorizing the Watergate break-in(s) was not one of them. Simply put, he was railroaded.

If I were pressed to disagree with any aspect of Rosen's analysis, it would probably be with his take on the Washington police officer who was most responsible for the Watergate arrests - Carl Shoffler. I knew Shoffler well (or thought I did) and am convinced that he was tipped off to the June 17 break-in. It's an issue I raised in the book that I wrote, and which Shoffler's undercover informant, Robert Merritt, has recently corroborated (with the help of the burglars' attorney, Douglas Caddy).

Does Rosen explain why the CIA was so keen to remove Nixon?

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Mitchell was correct in his assessment of Watergate as both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA. However, neither he nor Rosen knew of Crimson Rose, about which disclosure will be made by this writer on the Education Forum soon. This disclosure will confirm Mitchell's worse fears.

http://thegovernmentrag.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/watergate-exposed-set-up-of-president-nixon-assasinations-cover-ups-and-grand-jury-corruption/

"Two weeks prior to the Watergate break-in on
June 1, 1972
, Merritt was given confidential information by James Reed aka Rita, a drag queen friend of Merritt and operator for a telephone switchboard, who listened in on telephone calls and overheard
people who identified themselves as “The Crimson Rose.”
These conversations revealed that Watergate was going to take place. Merritt then tipped off Detective Shoffler with the information. Instead of preventing the break in, Shoffler decided to bring in Intelligence and set-up the burglars by sending them in a second time to get an envelope with a key to a safe deposit box that contained confidential information. Shoffler’s intention was to gain fame as the
“officer that arrested the burglars
” and get rid of President Nixon using a method of wiretap triangulation that he had learned from his prior training at the
National Security Agency’s Vint Hill Farm Station in Virginia.
Originally the break-in was planned for June 18th but Shoffler sent a message across to the Watergate burglars who were tapping the DNC’s phones that led the burglars to believe that there was something in there so important that it could not be left behind. The date was changed from the 18th to the 17th – which was also Shoffler’s birthday. He wasn’t scheduled to work that shift but he took on another shift and was parked a block away in a police car when the call came in reporting the burglary resulting in the immediate arrests."

It almost sounds as though Crimson Rose was a continuation of the Moorer-Radford operation.

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Rosen's biography of John Mitchell is a tour de force of investigative reporting, at once insightful and meticulously well-documented. His account of the Watergate affair - including the sinister role played by James McCord, the involvement of the CIA, and the importance of the Democrats' link to the call-girl operation at the Columbia Plaza Apartments - is much the same as my own. (See Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA). Even so, Rosen adds enormously to the story, mining a previously unavailable trove of materials generated by litigation inspired by John Dean in what turns out to have been the juridical equivalent of an own goal. (See Dean vs. St. Martin's Press and Wells vs. Liddy).

That Rosen exonerates Mitchell from the accusation that it was he who ordered the Watergate break-in(s) is true. And it's also just. Whatever sins Mitchell may have committed - and Mitchell himself would have been the first to admit that there were many - authorizing the Watergate break-in(s) was not one of them. Simply put, he was railroaded.

If I were pressed to disagree with any aspect of Rosen's analysis, it would probably be with his take on the Washington police officer who was most responsible for the Watergate arrests - Carl Shoffler. I knew Shoffler well (or thought I did) and am convinced that he was tipped off to the June 17 break-in. It's an issue I raised in the book that I wrote, and which Shoffler's undercover informant, Robert Merritt, has recently corroborated (with the help of the burglars' attorney, Douglas Caddy).

Does Rosen explain why the CIA was so keen to remove Nixon?

Military Intelligence started surveillance of Nixon and Mitchell even before Nixon was elected President in 1968.

As reported by Rosen in The Strong Man, Nixon and Mitchell were accused of illegal intervention in the 1968 Paris peace talks when they during the presidential campaign, “with the aid of Anna Chennault, violated the laws of international diplomacy, directly contacting South Vietnamese officials to urge them not to be swayed by Lyndon Johnson’s last-minute bombing halt.”

Rosen concludes, “Thus, if Mitchell’s case is a parable of power, its acquisition, uses, and abuses the key to the story lay in the Chennault affair, which was the means Nixon and Mitchell used to acquire power. Those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. Top officials in the intelligence community, where the suspicious movements of Mrs. Chennault and her friends in the Nixon campaign were detected early on, determined even before Nixon and his strong man assumed office that the two did not feel bound by the (loose) norms under which that community acted; they would have to be watched, and when the opportunity presented itself, neutralized. Thus, the enlistment of Yeoman Radford as a thief of Nixon’s and Kissinger’s documents – selectively leaked to generals and admirals unsympathetic to the administration’s foreign policy – and the deployment of Messrs. Hunt and McCord as spies, respectively, inside the White House and Mitchell’s Committee for the Reelection of the President. These are best seen as institutional responses to the intrigues of 1968, products of the warped political atmosphere created by the protracted war in Vietnam.”

----------------------------------

Although Rosen does not mention it in his book, there were rumors that Nixon and Mitchell used gold bullion to pay off the key South Vietnamese officials to remain loyal to them during the presidential campaign. Nixon and Mitchell feared that LBJ would employ an “October” surprise using the Vietnam War to do so.

My personal opinion is that the U.S. Military and the CIA were both heavily involved in the drug trade using the Vietnam War as a base of operations and feared that the incoming Nixon Administration might mess up their lucrative arrangement. The Vietnam War is best viewed primarily not as a war against the spread of communism but as a means by these governmental entities to reap the financial awards of the drug trade. One only has to look at what is happening in Afghanistan today to see that the U.S. Military and CIA have not changed their ways.

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