«A — Editorial Page — Saturday, August 10, 1974
An Independent Newspaper
They Thought They Had it Made'
Nixon- Walled in Behind His Aides,
Was Cut Off from Good Advisers
Bv PAUL MILLER
What happened to Richard Nixon**
That is the question many longtime acquaintances are asking themselves and
Somewhere along the ro«id ol alternately crushing defeat> and smashing
triumphs to tins weeks bitter end. the
public servant who had been eas> to meet
and easy to know as vice president and
Naturally, as president, relationships
had to change whether he wished, it o
not. But the? was more than that.
Where a White House as open as John
F Kennedys was anticipated, Presid/nt
Nixon's seemed . to some a compound
closed to alt but a relative tew
Where a common touch approaching
ihat of Harry S. Truman would have been
no surprise to those who knew him well,
the Nixon White House functioned with
near regal aloofness.
It never will be known, probably,
whether all this,resulted from the character and personality of the White House
people assisting Mr. Nixon, or from what
the President thought to be the desirable
In any case, where following the counsel of poltical pros of the flexibility, experience and understanding of a Melvm
Laird, secretary of defense, might have
blunted the change, Mr. Nixon was walled
in or walled himself in behind aides with
no personal political background or stature.
Time after tune, the President was said
to have ignored knowledgeable supporters
who vainly sought to warn what his bigh-
and-mighty, help was doing to him as they
rebuffed would-be advisers from the Congress afid elsewhere, even including the
Laird got out of the Cabinet, intending
to stay out of government, but as cracks
in the Nixon Administration deepened.
Laird loyally accepted for a time a White
House role that turned out to be of little
• . . Closed Circle
Now it's over, tragically over, and the
tell-tale White House tape3, exposing so
many things, attest to the tightness and
narrowness of the closed little circle in
which a President, although great in important respects, nevertheless with ill-
chosen aides destroyed his presidency.
How did it happen? There were many
reasons, of course, but one was as simple
They thought they had it made.
That could pe the political epitaph *»[
the Niion administration.
Once in the growing storm of Water-
Ste, the White House appeared to see
problem as one of public relations and
legal maneuvering. No voice on all those
tapes is heard to advance the thought of
just doing the right thing. Indeedrthey
kept digging themselves in deeper.
No one is recorded as* haying recalled
that the first rule of good publicielations
is simply this: Tell the truth and get it
But pursuing the thought, what if the
the aides, •on whom Mr. Nixon came to
rely on to an extent unimag^ned and unknown to many old fnends and supporters
-what it those aides and what if Richard Nixon had framed a complete. state
ment of the truth as »hey knew it as soon
as Watergate began unfolding"
What if the President had said to the
ountry. as he did so gracefully and eloquently Thursday night. "Here it is. I have
made a - grievous mistake. 1 regret it
deeply. I am working as hard as I can to
clean it up. I will keep you informed.
Meantime, please try to bear with us."
No one can say for sure what the outcome might have been, but how much better for everybody it probably would havt
"The cover-up" is an expression applied primarily in reference to Watergate.
It could have been applied to the White
House of Mr. Nixon long before Watergate
—not at all in the same sense, but in the
sense of a Robert Haldeman or a John
Ehrlichman and others effectively sealing
off the President from many who, given
access to present their views, might have
made a difference.
Some viewed this kind of cover-up as
White House efficiency.
The late former President Lyndon
Johnson told a ranch visitor that he admired the way President Nixon was running the White House.
LBJ explained that his own White
House had seemed, by contrast, to be wide
open day and night; he said he saw everybody who came around, particularly Tex-
ans, from having coffee with visitors at
seven o'clock in the morning to running
his appointments well into mid-evening
President Nixon. Mr. Johnson went on.
had the White House organized. Others
saw the visitors. Nixon could "get off by
himself and think "
. . . Extrovert Ford
Now the country is to be given a whole
sale change in White House attitudes and
Mr. Nixon, as has been said so often.
was widely regarded even by those closest
to him as a loner. He did like to fight his
own battles, reach his decisions, in solitude.
President Ford, on the other hand, is
an extrovert who kidded with reporters
before entering his limousine at home on
the day of his swearing in
President Fords people may he ex
pected to take much less into their own
hands than those who surrounded Mr
Nixon. Some tend to think of Mr Ford
as lacking in experience and background
Anyone who will look into his record wtffc
quickly note that he is qualified by ex
periene'e. personality, general background
and great human qualities.
It should not be overlooked that President Nixon selected Mr Ford from a broad
field of other possibilities more widely
mentioned at the time. He was naming
his own successor. Even then, Richard
Nixon himself may have considered that
Gerald R. Ford was the kind of man
America would need should Watergate
engulf the man who selected him — as
finally it did.
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