July 8: History was crowding in, but the heat numbed men’s reactions. Pulsing under a debilitating sun, the Washington Monument seemed to detach itself gently from its base and hang there, waiting. Despite 90-degree temperature at 8 AM, hundreds of young people were found waiting at the Supreme Court, veterans of this long, drenched weekend of the Fourth. They had patiently sorted out questions of precedence, seniority, and merit; turning in their own report card for admission, working out their tables of rotation. It was participatory democracy come to witness the working of judicial authority, calling the big marble temple to account, hoping it could call the President back to accountability—an iffy bet; the hard money held off, waiting.
Still other people, also mainly young, were waiting Monday morning, just across Capitol Hill, for the first appearance of John Ehrlichman in his own defense at the “Ellsberg break-in trial.” But the marathon waiters were those newsmen who stood, as they have for weeks, outside the House Judiciary Committee’s waiting room, begging like puppy dogs for scraps of testimony to print, so they could be excoriated by the White House for “selective” presentation of the evidence—as if they had a wide range of material from which they could select.
This morning they must piece together the testimony of Fred LaRue, called by Mr. St. Clair and questioned while he spoke at the Supreme Court. St. Clair hopes to prove that hush money to E. Howard Hunt was authorized by phone before John Dean met the President on March 21. At best that would indicate when Mr. Nixon joined the cover-up, not that he did anything to prevent it. But LaRue seems not to have contributed much, either way. The White House scored points last week, in the euphoric afterglow of Moscow, when some of St. Clair’s witnesses were disallowed. It looked as if the Committee was trying to head off a St. Clair triumph. At last the chairman caught on, and gave St. Clair his witnesses—like giving him enough rope.
The journalists’ rut, worn outside the Committee room, is a dreary beat. As one says: “I’ve got so used to it now, I go home and stand around in the middle of the living room. Then my wife comes in and speaks to me—but she sounds like Peter Rodino, so I go to sleep.” Another draws a Snoopy hanging over his doghouse, with the bubbles-of-thought up to this balloon: “Being a witness to history gets to be a bore.”
Washington is currently bored with great events, and narcotized by stimulants. Estragon doubts and Vladimir hopings reduce everyone to passive expectation. The capital is waiting, but afraid of what it waits for—which should be enough to make that “something” never come. But already unwilled things have happened, large and barely discernible, but there. The proof of that lies in the mere concentration of business around the Capitol—in both House and Senate, and in courtrooms that form the other axis of the Hill; even in outposts like the Doar group camped over in the old Congressional Hotel. St. Clair is running from one court to another, one committee to another; and the lawyers and spectators stand in line here, back where our government was supposed to occur. That is already a momentous shift of emphasis.
The layout of power in Washington resembles a dumbbell—no pun intended—with Pennsylvania Avenue as the bar between weights. But in recent years one end, the west one, has become so overweighted that the thing could not be lifted in a balanced way. The White House, with its clusters of agencies and departments, was the real center of government. Money for projects might be authorized on the Hill, but it was spend down the street. The placement of the Treasury was a terrible first omen—then the bloating of agencies, and the spread across the Potomac of defense and intelligence additions.
It was not meant to be that way. In a swampy city, with no good landing below old Georgetown’s, the government had been perched on the highest point—Jenkin’s Hill. From that spot L’Enfant made the principal streets radiate—to it they must converge. Here the President was expected to come, in performance of his mandated duties—reports on the state of the union, grants of war power, advice and consent on treaties. “The President’s House,” as it was first known, was just that—a private residence, like the governor’s mansion in a state capital, or the president’s house on a campus; removed somewhat from the man’s official duties to give his family privacy. Not, certainly, a seat of government. The President’s House was put on a comparative rise in the swampy area because of a Southern tradition that a mansion must have a river landing. (The President’s landing was not on the Potomac itself, but on Tiber Creek, now dried and drained off but running at first along Constitution Avenue.) Around this house, land ran quickly down to various foggy bottoms—a concentration of power there defied nature as well as the Constitution.
Of course, when this private residence became the de facto seat of government, it was necessary to escape from it for privacy—to Camp David, in the first place; then, as air travel put presidential homes within reach, to Gettysburg, to Hyannis Port, to the Pedernales. Nixon finds it necessary to vacation in a range of homes-away-from-home: Camp David, San Clemente, Key Biscayne, Grand Cay, and Moscow. He is briefly back from one, and on his way to another, this week. But no one cares. Even Henry Kissinger will bustle down to the Hill when he comes back from vital meetings with Princess Grace and the Pope. The astonishing thing is not that Mr. St. Clair is doing such a good job delaying, confusing, and counter-attacking all over the Hill and its environs, but that he has to give any accounting at all—to the courts, or to Congress. This is a change in the very order of things, novus ordo seclorum. The Congress is so surprised, it cannot make sense of the power thrust upon it; and even the Court does not seem comfortable. If anyone could avoid this situation, they would. It is unavoidable.
A sense of where the power was made the line at the Supreme Court even longer than those Sam Ervin’s committee had occasioned last summer. People were looking to the Court to get Congress off the hook, by placing Nixon squarely on it. Various interested parties were let in—Mr. Haldeman to sit uneasily by Mrs. Jaworski. Journalists perched on folding chairs behind the pillars—only court regulars could tell, from their voices, which of the judges was asking a question. The crowd outside had to check its boos for the villainous brilliance of St. Clair, its cheers for Jaworski’s dull honesty, as they came and went. St. Clair had argued well, for a man with his hands tied behind him by his client—forced to affront the Court’s sense of its own importance by dodging any commitment to abide by its ruling, something that made his very pleas before this bar a mockery.
While St. Clair implied at the Court that Presidents are above the law, John Ehrlichman was arguing at his own trial that the President’s men are above it too. He came into the courtroom cocky with an assurance that had grown from the trial’s first stage, when David Young proved to be an unimpressive witness for the prosecution. On the stand, Ehrlichman suffered a momentary catch of nervousness in his throat—and put that rebellious member in its place. Ostentatiously, he poured water and drank, ran it around his mouth, swallowed, drew his top lip up, ran tongue across teeth, adjusted his jaw line back and forth to the proper firmness, then raised his eyebrows at the jurors—a whole toilette in ten seconds. Here, clearly, was a man in charge.
After trying to get the trial moved out of the District because any representative jury here would be mainly black, Ehrlichman made two of his four lawyers blacks. William Merrill, for the prosecution, did all the questioning and arguing; but the blacks on the defense team would be all-too-obvious tokens if at least one was not given a real assignment. William Frates, the main defense lawyer, saved tricky cross-examination for himself, and let one of the blacks, Henry Jones, take Ehrlichman through his direct testimony. But Jones did such a poor job of it that the judge had to send the jury out and lecture him on how to ask a question. Jones tried to bull his way through, just angering Judge Gesell further. Frates, Bebe Rebozo’s Florida lawyer, tried to smooth things over, but Gesell had told him beforehand he would deal with only one lawyer from each team at any one time. In desperation, Frates finally tried to get standing as an amicus curiae.
Jones wanted to put before the jury a series of instructions from the President to Ehrlichman. Gesell called them irrelevant, since the prosecution was not claiming (here) that the President ordered the break-in of Dr. Fielding’s office. The judge said he realized that Mr. Jones wanted to impress the jury with his client’s importance. “That was not my purpose, Your Honor.” “Of course it is your purpose—part of it anyway.” His expression said the man would be a jackass not to work that angle—but that he better find an admissible way of doing it. He never did.
After the lecture, Jones gave up; and cross-examination began. It revealed the picture of a man too efficient to be burdened with a good memory. In order to function, Ehrlichman explained to the jurors, he had to develop his capacity to forget nonessentials. He had a burn-bag in his brain. The President had called this man one of the finest public servants he knew; the sequestered jury is spared the revelation, on Monday, of Mr. Nixon’s standards in this matter.
The House Judiciary Committee just released its undoctored version of eight tapes included in Mr. Nixon’s huge release of transcript material last April. In a section Nixon himself had excised from the vital March 22 talk, he says: “That’s what Eisenhower—that’s all he cared about. He only cared about—Christ, ‘Be sure he was clean.’ Both in the fund thing and the Adams thing. But I don’t look at it that way. And I just—that’s the thing I am really concerned with. We’re going to protect our people, if we can.” John Ehrlichman’s presence in this courtroom shows he could not protect his people—and maybe not even himself. What Ehrlichman is saying shows how little concern Nixon had that his people be “clean.”
The released tapes record Nixon saying, “I don’t give a shit what happens. I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment, cover-up or anything else, if it’ll save it—save the plan.” The plan referred to is clearly that mentioned earlier in this conversation (pp. 84-85 of the Committee’s 131-page comparison of transcripts): “All that John Mitchell is arguing, then, is that now we, we use flexibility…in order to get on with the coverup plan.” In the White House, conversations of that sort are called “exploring the options”—as in the March 21 order: “Well, for Christ’s sake, get it [the hush money].” Included in the Committee’s version of the transcripts is a fascinating question that might have eased the jurors’ task of weighing Ehrlichman’s guilt (not that they seemed to have much trouble taking the first unanimous vote on that matter): John Dean and the President are talking about the things Hunt might have to say if he were not paid off. The President asks: “Including Ehrlichman’s use of Hunt on the other deal?” The other deal is clearly the Fielding break-in; so the President is casually acknowledging, about his favored public servant, just what the prosecution has charged in this trial.
Each day of the week ends with long reading of transcripts—twelve volumes in all will be issued, in GPO gray or green, by Friday, along with supplementary analyses. And each morning brings an expectable yapping from the President’s toy terrier, Ron Ziegler. Apparently the only critical word he knows, at the moment, is “selective”—and he ludicrously applies it to the Monday release of the eight transcripts. But what is selective about it? The Committee released all the tape discrepancies it could verify—i.e., all those conversations for which it had both the President’s confections and its own tapes for comparison. Besides, when the President released his transcripts, he said “the whole story” was there. When the Committee adds the omitted parts to this “complete” story, correcting a first selection, how can this be a further act of selection? The pea-shuffler makes the shells fly, and you lift the “wrong” one. When you pry open his hand and find the original pea there, it is no defense to say that you are only considering part of the evidence (look at those three shells).
Tuesday, July 9: William Merrill continues his patient cross-examination of John Ehrlichman. The defendant’s manner suggests that he is quizzing the slight prosecutor, whose clipped wavy hair seems to continue his brow’s permanent wrinkles up across his head. Ehrlichman’s face, fixed yet mobile, is a living contradiction—a rubbery rock, a blunt rubber head always at work, butting away, erasing the past. Even the language must be mangled to suit his purpose. Yesterday Mr. Merrill asked Ehrlichman just how sure he was, now, of an answer he gave: “Are you morally certain?” Ehrlichman modestly admitted he couldn’t be sure what that term meant, for a starter. “Well, what does it mean to you?” “It’s a figure of speech.” A figure with any meaning? None that Merrill could extract from the India-rubber Iron Man.
Today Merrill quotes from Ehrlichman’s own grand jury testimony, in which he volunteered that he was “morally certain” he had not called General Cushman at the CIA to request “carte blanche” for E. Howard Hunt. In the light of the notes General Cushman’s secretary took at the time, does he remain morally certain that the call did not take place? Ehrlichman concedes the authenticity of the stenographer’s record. What, then, happened to his moral certitude? “That’s a phrase.” Obviously; but what does it mean to you? “It means less than certain.” Spoken like the Ehrlichman who, in yesterday’s transcript-release, advocated “a modified limited hangout.”
He likes, he has said, to “parse” situation. Now he will parse a phrase—parse it to death. “Morally,” since it is a “qualifier,” reduces the certitude of certain. But since his recollection was later improved, “certain” was too strong a term even after it had been qualified by the “weakening” adjective. So he should have used a weaker noun, with a stronger modifier—though a stronger modifier would just modify more in Ehrlichman logic, weakening the noun further. It is hopeless to make sense of this long excursus, delivered condescendingly to the jurors. We must settle for immoral uncertainty where Ehrlichman is concerned.
What, Mr. Merrill asks, about “carte blanche”? What does that mean? Not, of course, what you would think. “It means something less than an absolute run of the place.” How much less? “It meant freely giving assistance.” One would think that is the norm for civilized conduct among men authorized to do the public business. But few would think such civility a grant, to each other, of “carte blanche.” The judge tires of this game when he asks Ehrlichman whether a search was not implied in his approval of the “covert operation” to get information from Dr. Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Mr. Ehrlichman doubted that he could answer that question. Why? “Search may be a term of art.” Judge Gesell looked like Leon Errol on the bench, ready to do his face-smush. Merrill asked if Ehrlichman had heard of the doctor-patient privilege in law. Yes, he has. Doesn’t he think that would apply to a psychiatrist and his patient? “I don’t know, I haven’t briefed that.” Rub goes the eraser; rub, rub, rub.
Now the defense calls a surprise witness, a young swaggering man called William Treadwell, Egil Krogh’s first lawyer after the Fielding break-in became public knowledge. He is here to say that Krogh denied, back then, any knowledge of the raid on Ehrlichman’s part. The judge knows all about Mr. Treadwell, and dismisses the jury to say so: “This is the man who was calling all around, and tried to get in touch with me after the trial started. I wasn’t going to talk to him. I said, ‘Act like a lawyer.’ ” Now Gesell wants to know if the prosecution has been given the witness’s dossier and all pretrial discovery material. The defense says Treadwell would not give them his notes. “Oh, c’mon Treadwell,” Gesell scowls, “did you say that?” Long pause. “I might have.” Crisp and bitter: “Turn ’em over.” After lunch, it will be found that his notes on one interview with Krogh contain the words: “Firm belief E. approved everything.” Mr. Treadwell was first recommended to Krogh by none other than John Ehrlichman. The young lawyer left with his pompadour sadly deflated.
As Ehrlichman strode down the hall toward lunch, a young man came up to shake his hand, and asked: “Isn’t it frustrating for you to be standing trial while Ellsberg is free and a hero?” The response, of course, was in Newspeak: “Only in the small rung”—accompanied by that rubber smile that is an insult. The man who asked the question had just come down two floors from another trial being held today—that of four war-protesters who poured blood on the files of the South Vietnamese Overseas Procurement Office in Washington. The government was throwing the book at these dreadful reminders that the peace Henry Kissinger won a Nobel Prize for has not, yet, occurred—eleven counts in the indictment, with every offense you could dream of (insulting the dignity of foreign emissaries, no less). When I went up to the courtroom, Judge John Pratt, an ex-Marine who lost his arm in World War II and presided with righteous ferocity at the 1970 trial of the DC Nine (destroyers of Dow Chemical files), was yawning over the prosecution’s production of overkill evidence. The four people were putting on no defense except a statement of conscience.
When the trial was adjourned for lunch, Philip Berrigan, the priest once tried for a plot to kidnap Henry Kissinger, mustered his friends for a march to the Capitol. TV cameras on hand for Ehrlichman trained an idle camera or two on the “tiger cage” that had been brought to the courthouse as a “physical witness” to what South Vietnamese prisoners still suffer. The tiger cage has become a symbol of the largely invisible protest that Quakers and others still mount in Washington. Several weeks before this, some protesters had driven around the White House with the cage on an open truck. When they slowed to a stop behind a line of cars, park police told them to move on. Then, when they tried to, they were told to stop and wait there. They waited, for an hour and a half. At which point, without any reading of their rights, they were all arrested for protesting without a permit—including Father Berrigan, who was chained in the cage, and whose parole was thus endangered.
Today they plan to go to the Capitol with their cage—the four defendants marching with them in their lunch hour—and some expect to be arrested again. In the brain-damaging heat, a young man, Rhett Ridnour, twenty-seven years old, is handcuffed inside the cage, and ten people lift it to their shoulders (eight men, two women). Sixty people trail along with them to the Capitol and toil up the long stairs, which seem to liquefy under them in the sun. The Capitol police tell them to move, but they refuse. The negotiations go on for several hours (the defendants have to rush back to their trial), and various spots are suggested where the cage might be displayed. At last, the demonstrators win: they move it to one side, where it will not obstruct traffic in and out of the Capitol, and they are allowed to stay. Now that spot belongs to them. They will be back every day this week; and after them the Quakers take up the vigil. Their aim is to remain an accusing presence until Hiroshima Day (August 6).
While the negotiations are going on, some marchers come in from Lincoln Park—from that southeast section of Washington that has been forgotten in the concentration of power “NW” around the White House. Vice President Ford has been over in Lincoln Park helping to unveil a statue to Mary McLeod Bethune, the great black educator. For thirteen years members of the National Council of Negro Women have been collecting money for this tribute, and Ford’s presence at the unveiling is the symbol of a fugitive legitimacy still present in this town, if only as a hope.
Trying to take a shortcut back to the courthouse, I walk through the Capitol—its statues are wrapped in something that looks like dark cellophane, while restorers work on the walls—a secular Lent—and I find the doors facing west are all locked. The tripartite Capitol might as well be a sealed tomb on the side that faces the White House. It is not a natural path of communication. One looks down the Mall—the great view planned for the place—through barred windows.
So I cut around by way of the Rayburn Building. John Mitchell is appearing before the Rodino committee, “stonewalling” in the compelled service of Mr. St. Clair. When I arrive, Congressman Sandman is calling him “convincing” to the cameras—Stone Mountain is convincing, I guess. Congressman Wiggins, who runs St. Clair a close race as the President’s lawyer before the committee, is giving one of his weird lectures on the Constitution in the hallway.
His theme today is the “take care” clause: the President “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Wiggins says that his research indicates that this clause looks merely to administering laws passed by Congress, not to enforcing them. Newsmen ask: (1) then why is the Justice Department put under the President’s care, and (2) how can one administer without any power of enforcement, and (3) weren’t the problems in our early days of the Constitution the power to enforce levys, etc., on the various new states, and (4) hasn’t St. Clair argued that the President cannot have committed misprision by not reporting crimes to law enforcement authorities because he is the highest law enforcer? Wiggins shrugs it all away: “I’m just telling you what my research indicates. It’s a complicated question.” And back into the committee room.
By the time I reach the courthouse, Judge Pratt has already rendered his decision on the four blood-pourers—guilty on one of the eleven counts (destroying foreign property). He calls the other government charges excessive, and congratulates the defendants on their sincerity and decorum. He hardly seems the same man who sat on the DC Nine case. It is a sweltering bewildered city, but odd hopeful things still happen in it.
Wednesday, July 10: The line before the Supreme Court on Monday seems to have moved over bodily to the federal courthouse—this is the day that Kissinger appears. Everyone is keyed up. When Gordon Liddy arrived from the jail, he theatrically threw up his hands to be searched. “You have any dangerous weapons on you, Gordon?” “Only my cock,” he tittered back.
Newsmen inside are pestering Dennis Bracy, the GSA man in charge of seating. I can only get a pass that lets me in for half-hour intervals—and my time does not include the two minutes of laconic Kissinger apotheosis. But the morning’s business is interesting, nonetheless. The lawyer for Messrs. Barker and Martinez is trying to enter orders and memoranda from their earlier CIA assignments. The judge asks why. To show that they had broken the law before, and it was authorized—they smuggled aliens into America, transported guns, forged documents; and received commendation from the government. The judge still asks what relevance these things have to the present case. “To show that they had reason to think they were empowered to break the law.”
The argument has no legal bearing, but great psychological force. It is, unwittingly, the greatest argument against a clandestine federal police force that moves outside the law. It makes one pity the dupes of that secret agency when old comrades call them to just one more “patriotic” endeavor at outlawry. But Judge Gesell persists, inflexibly telling the lawyer to show him some place in the Constitution, or some law passed by Congress, or some statute in the criminal code, that gives the CIA a right to grant men immunity from the laws of the United States. It is perhaps the single most important statement of principle in this trial—but it is swallowed up in the general anticipation of Kissinger’s arrival.
Henry has been called for three reasons: (1) to cause the court trouble (this is only one of a series of apparently extravagant requests the defense made, hoping to say it could not go to trial because such requests had been denied, depriving them of necessary evidence); (2) to impress the jurors further with Mr. Ehrlichman’s importance; and (3) to cast doubt on David Young’s testimony. The final point is the only one a jury should consider—but, as Mr. Merrill will point out in his final argument, it has a flaw that cancels all its evidentiary value. Dr. Kissinger testifies that he did not ask for a psychological profile of Daniel Ellsberg. The CIA psychiatrist, Bernard Malloy, claims that David Young, when asking for that profile, said the request came from Kissinger. It seems to be Kissinger’s word against Young’s—but it isn’t. The defense had neglected to ask Young for his own response on this point. There is only the second-hand report of Dr. Malloy. Kissinger’s testimony could not be used to challenge Young’s credibility on this issue, since Young’s own testimony on this point was not in evidence.
Kissinger’s appearance is just a distraction. William Frates, who called Kissinger, and would later celebrate his importance before the jury, sees Mary McGrory in the hall after Kissinger’s departure, and congratulates her on a column that mocked the Secretary of State.
After a visit to the tiger cage (just to see if it is still there) I go to the House press gallery, where the Judiciary Committee is releasing its first eight volumes of evidence—the books John Doar has been expounding, with what seems to have been a boring meticulousness, behind closed doors. Naturally, the carts come over in crazy order—all Book Ones and no Book Fours. The wait extends for three hours, during which the heat is broken by a storm. Newsmen stagger out into the rain with all eight volumes—some carrying two, even three sets, for their papers. Mr. Ziegler will consider the release selective; but my eyes blur before long—I fall asleep somewhere in volume three. There is, as many will notice, nothing new here—not after the leaks that let out what was new. But it is marshaled in impressive form—a series of statements, going chronologically through the years (yes, now Watergate is measured in years), with all the evidence for each point appended. It is not exciting reading, but some hearts will pound at the contents. Dull but damning evidence wondrously concentrates the minds of future defendants.
Thursday, July 11: Arguments begin at the Ehrlichman trial. William Merrill, quiet as always, spends his hour on the chronology of the case—on Ehrlichman’s constant involvement with it, and his predictable failures of memory. The patterns fit each other. Then he spells out the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Ehrlichman admits he authorized a search of Dr. Fielding’s papers, but says this was not illegal because he did not authorize a break-in.
Merrill points out that if the papers were gained some other way, there was still no right to search them, destroying their essential privacy. It was clear that the doctor would not yield them up voluntarily—why have a “covert operation” that would not be “traceable” if that were the case? In one desperate moment on the stand Ehrlichman, who had earlier said he gave no thought to how the papers might be secured (i.e., “seized”), said he did think they might be in the Brookings Institution. But the Brookings people were no more amenable than Dr. Fielding to give them over (if anything, less); and would have no right to give them, even if they were willing; and if the papers were given, it would still be wrong to violate their privacy. It was a simple, understated lesson in the law that the judge would endorse in his instruction to the jury.
Poor Mr. Jones gets up to do the normal catechism of the defense (“burden of proof,” “reasonable doubt,” etc.) and to show that a black man could speak up for Ehrlichman—who certainly did not observe a fifty-fifty racial proportion when staffing the White House. Then comes Frates, trying in his overbearing way to be folksy. The effect is of the Commendatore striding into the last scene of Don Giovanni, slapping Leporello on the back, asking “How’s tricks, pal?” and ordering a martini. He says, on two occasions, that Mr. Ehrlichman was “no big shot” (just an ordinary pal of Messrs. Nixon and Kissinger), and refers lovingly to one of his hokier touches—bringing in, as a character witness, a young navy man who served Ehrlichman his meals in the White House. He points out all the other people who had trouble remembering specifics in their testimony—but neglects the fact that their troubles did not form a complex pattern to match Ehrlichman’s. He wanders, grovels grandly, flatters, and generally does a good impersonation of Ham Burger on the old Perry Mason shows. He behaves as if the jurors are cretins.
The forgotten men of the trial are given eloquent pleas for sympathy. Gordon Liddy, who sat through the trial with perky attentiveness, sometimes engaging spectators in stare-downs, his weasel head seeming to duck behind the outsized mustache, is defended by Peter Maroulis, who will not relax his distance from the Ehrlichman defense team, even to approach the jurors. Daniel Schultz portrays Martinez and Barker as the dupes of E. Howard Hunt; but has to admit that ignorance of the law is no defense. He is arguing, in effect, to the judge, not the jury—with sentencing in mind. The dupes do not even hope to get off. The big fish, apparently, still does.
Merrill’s rebuttal admits the plight of the three lesser defendants, while correcting some of Mr. Frates’s grosser distortions. But he goes on to say that the victim in this crime was the Constitution; that the principle of personal security from unauthorized intrusion—even from the government, and especially from a paragovernment outside its normal agencies—is tested by this case as by no other. The jurors are hurried out of the courtroom with an assurance that the turmoil outside has nothing to do with this case. The press and spectators are given time to reflect on the guarantees of the Constitution as they leave the building, in which two prisoners have seized hostages and are setting up a cellblock bastion that will hold out for days. The jurors must assemble at a different courthouse tomorrow for the judge’s instruction.
Outside the cordons of police, I set off past the Capitol for the Supreme Court. Late on Tuesday, just one day after the Jaworski-St. Clair argument in the court, the former Chief Justice, Earl Warren, died. It was like an admonition to the men who are called to fill his place in history to be of his caliber. The justices had done an unprecedented thing—opened the court for Warren’s lying in state, and brought out his bench-chair as the one symbol in this quiet ceremony. People have been filing past most of the day, and the big unused cella of the court’s central temple seems to have a purpose at last—this hall dwarfs the actual chamber that it leads to, the temple’s adyton. L’Enfant meant Capitol Hill and its immediate ring of buildings to be our acropolis. One reason it does not shine over the city as intended is that its large Roman style was too enthusiastically adopted at the other end of the Avenue, where agencies set up their own bulky temples and huge Roman boxes, complete with statues of Amazons made classically sexless with their bared square breasts. But the first instinct was right—a severe note of the Roman republic.
Even George Washington’s huge obelisk comes from Egypt by way of Rome. The early imagery used of Washington (during the Revolution) was mainly Biblical—he was Moses leading a people out of captivity. But very soon the images became more secular—Washington with toga or bared chest, always Cincinnatus surrendering power: that is the way he is remembered in the first great monument put up to him (in Baltimore), or by visitors to the Annapolis state house (where he resigned his commission). His bestknown message came with the supreme recommendation that it was delivered as he voluntarily left office and went back to the plow. His veterans banded together as the Cincinnati. The important thing is not merely that his fellow citizens saw him in this role, but that he alone of men with his historical stature (one thinks of Caesar, Cromwell, Napoleon) lived up—or down—to the role.
There is something about national crisis that sends men’s minds back to such standards. I noticed, during the week, that three columnists quoted from mottoes on the main government temples, especially from this one—the Court. The totally silent file of people circling inside reminds us of such a monument’s use—to make us part of something larger and continuing, a benefaction from the past, a sign of our forefathers’ faith in us—that we would be here, still honoring the republican symbols, long after the temple’s designers had disappeared. Now Earl Warren is gone; what must the judges think who put on their black robes and move through this temple, adding their chapter to the building’s own history? The way they have honored the late Chief Justice makes one hope they feel somewhat like Henry Adams’s heroine in Democracy, who said: “Why do I feel unclean when I look at Mount Vernon?”
While I am this close, I make one of my favorite stops just next door to the Court, in the Library of Congress. It is the front landing that normally holds Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration (a far more touching document than the formally engrossed and signed copy in the National Archives—though now it is temporarily removed). Here, too, is a lock of Jefferson’s red hair turning gray—and the original manuscript of Washington’s first annual address, beginning “My fellow citizens of the Senate and the House of Representatives”: Cincinnatus rendering his account to the citizens empowered to demand it of him. Washington knew where the center of government was: here, on a public Hill, open to republican scrutiny. What a comedy that Congress should be frightened to see it returning here.
News has leaked, today, of new findings by the Senate Select Committee, on its last day of formal existence; so I go to the Dirksen Building, hoping to get a copy of the report that will be handed out tomorrow. Sure enough, the “dirty tricks”investigators have found something new in their last weeks of work on the Rebozo funds—it came in too late for the detailed letter sent to James St. Clair on June 6, asking for the President’s response to evidence that Rebozo used campaign funds for the President’s personal expenses.
The new discovery is a $5,000 set of diamond earrings purchased for Pat Nixon’s sixtieth birthday, with funds that came from Rebozo through a circuitous “laundering” operation. Newsmen are phoning in for a description of the earrings, and Terry Lenzner checks the details against an insurance photo on his desk. Terrier Ron Ziegler has already called this new finding “warmed-over baloney”; so the staff has bought (with its own funds) a huge eleven-pound baloney sausage. At first, they planned to send it over to Ron with instructions on what to do with it—some felt that he would need numbered directions and a diagram in order to understand the instructions—but prudence overtakes them in their giddy moment of exhaustion, and they will take the baloney to Senator Ervin’s last Watergate Committee press conference tomorrow.
A check at the Judiciary Committee seems to indicate that St. Clair’s long-awaited grilling of John Dean has not broken him down, as some Republicans hoped. Dean goes back before the committee tomorrow.
Friday, July 12: The press comes early to the Senate Caucus Room, wanting a prior look at the three-volume report whose formal release date will be Sunday. Although the Senate committee has faded from the public’s mind since its televised hearings of a year ago, its teams of investigators have been using these twelve months of subpoena power with great diligence. One team, under David Dorsen, did an extensive study of the dairy contributions, and their nexus with milk price supports—it has turned over its findings to the Special Prosecutor, which may be bad news for John Connally. James Hamilton led the study of the Watergate cover-up—with results that show on every page of John Doar’s first eight volumes of evidence presented to the Judiciary Committee.
Terry Lenzner, aided by six very bright young investigators, handled “dirty tricks” and then branched off into the Rebozo-Hughes connection. Eleven subpoenas were issued by the committee to Rebozo, who defied them all. But now this material, too, goes to Jaworski, whose enforcement powers begin with immediate imprisonment for contempt. The Senate investigators could never get a look inside Rebozo’s own Key Biscayne bank; but they pieced together a damning picture of Rebozo’s financial dealings just from his use of other banks to route campaign money around toward Nixon’s private use. That picture is sketched in the twenty-two-page letter sent to Mr. St. Clair in June, and reprinted in the third volume of the report.
Some staff members regret that particular finds of theirs were omitted from the last report; but some trimming had to be done to achieve unanimous approval by committee members. One whole chapter was excised as too speculative—one tying the DNC break-in to a desire to find out what Larry O’Brien knew about Hughes money that had gone to Rebozo and other Nixon funders. Ervin buttered up the staff members whose work was excised, assuring them the volumes draw a picture of a horse—with no need for adding a caption, “This is a horse.”
Ervin uses that same line in this morning’s press conference, and gets a big laugh from it. Only four senators show up for the final joint statement. Senator Gurney has gone into hiding since his last indictment. I passed Senator Talmadge on my way over to the Senate building; he was posing with Georgia constituents on the Capitol steps. Sam Dash is milking his last public appearance as Chief Counsel for all it is worth. When the television cameras begin to dim, he brings out the eleven-pound baloney and offers newsmen slices from it.
At noon a procession forms to take Earl Warren’s casket from the Court to the National Cathedral, a quizzical Gothic extravagance in this Roman town. The press is stationed in the north transept, looking head-on at the front row of mourners, with Mr. and Mrs. Nixon in the north aisle seats, Mrs. Warren in the south one. For some of us, it is the first close look at the President since reports of the phlebitis in his left leg. He does seem to favor it, to shift it as often (if unobtrusively) as possible during the long service. The first address is by Rabbi Alvin Fine, and might be considered in bad taste: “Human decency and kindness were so instinctive, honor and dignity so natural in him, that there could be no unguarded moments of indiscretion when he was anyone but the true Earl Warren.” A funeral is no place for partisan expressions—yet who could hear those words, in today’s Washington, and not think of all the unguarded moments of indiscretion recorded in the tapes and transcripts that fill this city’s consciousness? Still, how can one criticize a man for paying tribute to Warren’s unquestioned integrity?
Standing in the transept, studying Nixon’s studied woodenness, the real enormity of our situation hits me. Nixon has made integrity itself a partisan issue! Any mention of honesty in his presence is an implied rebuke. The merest commonplace about human decency becomes a tacit dig at his politics, which are at one with his person. It is weirdly fitting that this insight should be enforced at the funeral of Nixon’s old Republican enemy from the Fifties. Warren, who tried to fight Eisenhower for the presidency, shared with Ike a concern that men be “clean,” the code that Nixon expressly disowned in transcripts released this week.
Yet even the slack code of crony’s loyalty has not been observed by Nixon. After telling Mitchell he would protect his own, Nixon plotted to throw Mitchell to the dogs, using hoodlum language about “the Magruder-Mitchell head-chop business” in his April 16 talk with Dean. For Nixon to sit here in public, after we have heard those cruel private schemings, lends the ceremony a surreal note, as of feigned grief at Mafia funerals. Granted, Mrs. Nixon is not wearing the “swag”—neither the $52,000 jewels from Prince Fahd nor the $5,000 earrings courtesy of Bebe. But for Nixon to sit here at the casket of Earl Warren brings back the campaign that was the foundation of their enmity, and the lachrymose but still honorable boast of those years: “Pat doesn’t have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat.” The days of such respect are gone, not only for Republicans but for the republic. Whatever one said about “Tricky Dick” of the Fifties, at least he did not seem personally venal. Now one wonders if there is anything left for him to be charged with—any code, however low, he still claims to honor; any standard remaining beyond brute survival.
It is a country in deep moral trouble that follows the hearse of Earl Warren, and the limousine of Richard Nixon, over to Arlington National Cemetery. This was the good side of the Potomac, site of the Custis plantation, which George Washington’s adopted son turned into the principal site for honoring the first President in the early nineteenth century—far more alive with his memories than Mount Vernon itself. Here the public was received in the great battle tent of the General (now on display in the Smithsonian), and George Washington Custis lovingly showed people his father’s personal possessions. Even through the Civil War the mansion kept its honor bright by connection with the name of Lee. When Henry Adams sent his fictional characters to visit it, it was already the national graveyard—“the long white ranks of headstones, stretching up and down the hillsides by thousands, in order of battle; as though Cadmus had reversed his myth, and had sown living men to come up dragons’ teeth.” The serene squat front of the great house indicted the city then, and still does.
Adams, like Twain, saw the Reconstruction White House adrift in a muck of money and pride; not anchored in an honorable past like Arlington; unable to live up to the mottoes on its own temples. It is tempting to think the same thing of a country whose hard-core supporters of the President tell pollsters that all politicians steal, that Presidents can therefore steal more, and that the law cannot touch them—in short, that the Constitution not only gave us a monarch, but a particularly sleazy and tainted one; and that we must live with him. But all is not lost, Mr. Adams, Mr. Twain, Mr. Warren. As I turn back from Arlington, the car radio says Ehrlichman’s jury has come back after a mere three hours of deliberation with a guilty verdict. And St. Clair has again failed to shake John Dean. And now that the heat has broken, one can see the Capitol very clearly from Robert Lee’s mansion.
August 8, 1974