The Ends of Power
When lo! a burst of thunder shook the flood.
Slow rose a form, in majesty of mud,
Shaking the horrors of his sable brows,
And each ferocious feature grim with ooze.
Greater he looks, and more than mortal stares;
Then thus the wonders of the deep declares.
[The Dunciad, 2.325-330]
Haldeman’s book was supposed to “tell all” and he tried hard at it—he tells us more than he knows, and hints at more than he tells. He also manages to include just about everything said by just about everyone involved in or looking at the tangle of Watergate events.
He agrees with Nixon’s defenders in all their countercharges. He takes the Victor Lasky-William Safire line that “it didn’t start with Watergate.” He also thinks, with Raymond Price and Pat Buchanan, that press enemies and Democrats drove him to it. He concludes that Watergate was a Democratic trap, sprung by Larry O’Brien’s dirty tricks and closed by John Doar’s dirtier ones.
Haldeman justifies the secret bombing of Cambodia on the grounds that mean kids in the street wouldn’t let Nixon commit his patriotic acts in daylight. And since the kids were being manipulated by communists (pp. 106-107), that means the President of the United States was a captive in his own house of the enemies he was trying to bomb with honor in a distant land. No wonder he had to sneak and cover his nobler moments. With William Buckley, Haldeman thinks any president would be forced to hire gumshoes like Howard Hunt in a nation that gives its Pulitzer Prize to Jack Anderson. (Anderson, of course, was part of the Democratic trap in Haldeman’s reading of Watergate.)
But after attacking all Nixon’s enemies, Haldeman turns around and embraces all their theories too. So far as conspiracies are concerned, it is “come one come all” for Haldeman.
To him the Goddess: “Son! Thy grief lay down,
And turn this whole illusion on the town.”
He holds the Terry Lenzner-J. Anthony Lukas view that the DNC break-in came from Nixon’s desire to know about Larry O’Brien’s ties with Howard Hughes (and to know what O’Brien knew about Hughes’s ties with Nixon and Rebozo). Haldeman gives himself too much credit when he calls this “my own theory of what initiated the Watergate break-in.” But he admits Daniel Schorr supplied him with a CIA theory of Watergate (one prompted, as well, by Ehrlichman’s novel, The Company). Then he adds curlicues to that theory from Miles Copeland, Howard Baker, and Fred Thompson.
Haldeman agrees with Nixon’s critics that the tapings were for “blackmail” purposes—especially useful for keeping Kissinger in line. Haldeman also welcomes all variants—those of Nicholas Von Hoffman, Renata Adler, Edward Jay Epstein—of the “bureaucracy” theory of Watergate. The more people getting in on the kill, the better for Haldeman: it shows Nixon was right to see everyone (except Haldeman) as an enemy.
Haldeman, Haldeman tells us at length, was…
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