Of Many Things

The smoking gun had been fired on July 23, 1972, during an oval office conversation between President Richard M. Nixon and H. R. Haldeman, the flat-topped former Eagle Scout Mr. Nixon had chosen for White House chief of staff. The two men were discussing the bungled burglary of the Democratic National Committee two months earlier, a scandal that had come to be known as Watergate, after the name of the Washington, D.C., complex that housed the D.N.C. offices. People were now asking a lot of questions, especially at NBC News, which had just broadcast a special report on the Cuban-born burglars who had been hired by Nixon’s operatives to conduct the black bag job.

That gave the president an idea. He directed Mr. Haldeman to tell the Federal Bureau of Investigation to halt its investigation of the Watergate matter because it might lead to the release of classified information about the Bay of Pigs, the botched invasion of Cuba, which had been orchestrated by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1961. Mr. Nixon knew, of course, that this was a lie; but in the midst of the Cold War, with Communism apparently thriving less than 90 miles from Florida, Cubans made convenient political scapegoats.

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So Mr. Nixon pulled the trigger: “Say: ‘Look, the problem is that this will open the whole Bay of Pigs thing, and the President just feels that,’ without going into the details...don’t, don’t lie to them to the extent to say there is no involvement.... Call the FBI in and say ‘that we wish for the country, don’t go any further into this case,’ period!” The rest, as they say, is history. The Oval Office tapes that secretly recorded all this were subpoenaed and eventually released to the public; and Mr. Nixon was sent packing 40 years ago this summer.

After all these years of research and revelation—years in which we even learned the identity of the mysterious Deep Throat—it’s hard to believe that there is still an untold story about the Watergate affair. Yet here it is.

In this issue, Raymond A. Schroth, S.J., tells the tale of three Jesuits and their connections to the greatest political crime of the century. It’s fascinating, not least because these three men, who as Jesuits went through the same basic academic training and spiritual formation, could not have been more different from one another.

While President Nixon and Mr. Haldeman were concocting their Cuban scheme, John McLaughlin, S.J., was commuting back and forth between his White House office—where he had taken charge of the moral defense of the president—and his apartment in, of all places, the Watergate.

At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, meanwhile, Congressman Robert Drinan, S.J., was actively opposing the president’s policies and would eventually vote for his impeachment.

And at the height of the scandal, Frank Haig, S.J., provided quiet counsel to his brother, Gen. Alexander Haig, who just happened to be Mr. Haldeman’s replacement as White House chief of staff. Not, perhaps, since the days when Jesuits served as the chief confessors to the crowned heads of Europe had a group of Jesuits been so close to the center of political intrigue. The more things change....

Forty years after Watergate, as Tim Padgett also reports in this issue, Cuba is still on the political—and now papal—agenda. As we look back to that eventful summer of 1974 and as we look ahead to the future of the U.S./Cuba relationship, we would do well to remember these words of wisdom: “Others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.” The author, Richard M. Nixon, was speaking from experience.

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Ann Phillips
3 years 5 months ago
The "greatest political crime of the century" was not Watergate. Using the IRS to silence your opposition is heinous. -Ann Phillips
ed gleason
3 years 5 months ago
"greatest political crime of the century' was to give politcal groups IRS tax exempt status.
J Cosgrove
3 years 5 months ago
Such as unions.
Vincent Gaitley
3 years 5 months ago
Indeed, especially unions of public employees.
Vincent Gaitley
3 years 5 months ago
Good for you, Ann Phillips! Obamacare's ugly "passage" was also a suspect, but my favorite is still the Senate acquittal of the obviously lying Bill Clinton. Liberals don't seem to realize that they'd be better off if Gore had the guts to turn against Clinton and help remove him. He would have been elected in 2000 as an incumbent and perhaps Iraq would not have happened. And all of us would be spared Hillary and Obama too. This is what happens when the rule of law breaks down over politics.
Bill Mazzella
3 years 5 months ago
Vincent Gaitely, Under Clinton we had prosperity. Under your W we had the Great Recession. Obama was saddled with this mess. But I understand that your mentor is that drug addict, Rush Limbaugh, whom you parrot.
J Cosgrove
3 years 5 months ago
In the late 1990's we had prosperity under a Republican congress. In 2008 we had the Great Recession under a Democratic congress. In fact this is a specious statement just as it is specious to attribute Clinton's administration to prosperity and Bush's administration to the financial crisis. The cause of the prosperity in the late 1990's was the expansion of the internet and a tax cut in capital gains. Clinton had nothing to do with the first and did sign the tax reduction provided by the Republican congress. His earlier tax increases led nowhere. The cause of the Great Recession was the artificial rise in housing prices due to relaxation of mortgage standards started in the early 1990's. The cause of this is covered in great detail in two books, Fragile by Design by Charles W. Calomiris and Reckless Endangerment by Gretchen Morgenson.
Bill Mazzella
3 years 5 months ago
J, Clinton reduced the debt. Tell me that the iraq war had nothing to do with the decline. The authors of those books are neither conclusive nor necessarily right.
Vincent Gaitley
3 years 5 months ago
Mr Bill M et al., I only responded to Anne Phillips remarks about the worst political crime of the century. All my mentors were Jesuit liberals, yet I turned out okay. I'm not so partisan either having been once an elected Democrat official, but now for a long time not a member of that party. I don't parrot anyone, not even Jesus or the pope. And certainly not the automatic left winged parrots who fly above imagining the whole sky is theirs alone, since they fly in circles.
Matthew Malone
3 years 5 months ago

Thank you for your reply. Prescinding from what his presidential successors may or may not have done, Mr. Nixon, in addition to his other crimes, also used the IRS to harass and silence his opponents. See: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/05/26/irs-chief-defied-nixon/2360951/

 

 

James Sullivan
3 years 5 months ago

I love AMERICA ! Father-- I have a question. I'm writing this on June 18th and The Daily Beast has a column today stating that Pope Francis may be sick--he has cancelled all his audiences for July and has gained 20 pounds and looks awful. Isn't there ANYONE in the Jesuits talking about this? Isn't there ANYONE telling Francis to slow down?
Are these rumors about his health true? What can AMERICA magazine( and WE)do to help the Pope? OR is this all hysterical gossipy news?

Bill Mazzella
3 years 5 months ago
Philips and Gaitley choose to be partisan. This is a great story which indeed few of us have heard about.
Tammy Gottschling
3 years 5 months ago
Thank you, Matt Malone, for your ministry to the Catholic community.

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