Friday, August 8, 2014

Nixon Quitting!

Forty years ago today, I was at band camp at Lakeland College near Sheboygan.

I had been following the House's impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon very closely, even taping them so I could review portions later. The votes to impeach had already taken place, and the week of August 4-10 wasn't expected to be particularly eventful. After week after week of Watergate, Watergate, Watergate, the cover of Time was of Jack Nicholson.

Thursday night was the night of the camp talent show. I don't remember that I participated in the show, but I remember that I was there and had a good time. And after the show, on my way back to the dormitory, I passed by the student union, where a small crowd was watching Nixon's resignation announcement on TV.

Even given how much Watergate dominated the public square in 1973 and 1974, and even with the Supreme Court's 8-0 ruling against Nixon's claims to executive privilege, having missed the events of the previous three days, Nixon's resignation was a bolt out of the blue. When I left home, he was steadfastly refusing to give an inch to Congressional investigators and had just returned from a trip to Russia.

But the "smoking gun" tape proving that Nixon was in on the cover-up of the Watergate break-in was released on Monday, and his Republican defenders on the House Judiciary Committee and in the Senate withdrew their support. The day before he resigned, Nixon promised his cabinet that he would fight on -- but G.O.P. luminaries such as Barry Goldwater, Nelson Rockefeller and Ronald Reagan were letting it be known whether or not they would agree to be Gerald Ford's Vice President.

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