By Peter Roff - US News and World Report

The news is full of Watergate recaps, most of which focus on what happened and how it all led up to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. All of it is as interesting today as it was 40 years ago, even though the American people now know a lot more about what actually happened.

The one thing we still don’t know is why. And we likely never will, which is unfortunate since that is perhaps the most interesting element of the whole shebang, as opposed to what motivated Nixon to authorize the cover-up – he was trying to prevent a political dirty tricks operation from being revealed and to minimize the political damage to his administration. Nixon had a plan in mind for a massive reorganization of the federal government, was pushing détente with the Soviets, had opened diplomatic channels to “Red” China, and carried 49 of the 50 states (while also losing the District of Colombia) in his 1972 re-election bid. He was at the top of the heap, the pinnacle of his power, and he had no intention of losing it over what others termed “a second rate break in” that was no worse than things his immediate predecessors had authorized during their campaigns.

The “why” is why did the five burglars, under the direction of G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt, break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building? What they were doing and what they were looking for has never been satisfactorily explained.

There are, however, a number of interesting theories. One is that John Dean, Nixon’s White House counsel, was the one who ordered that specific break in and who orchestrated the cover up made necessary after the burglars were caught so that no one would uncover the existence of a “sex for sale” call girl operation involving prominent Democrats and several women with whom he was acquainted, one of whom he eventually married.

Dean, who later became the star witness for the prosecution in front of the Senate Watergate Committee, is notoriously sensitive to the charge – and with good reason. It has never been proven. It is curious, nonetheless, that of all the people who appeared to come clean, the one with the most damaging information was also the man who was, in essence, the lawyer for the presidency and, as such, found himself in the middle of everything by nature of the fact that, as an attorney, there was a presumption he was bound by the rules of confidentiality.

GOP political consultant Roger Stone, an intimate later in life of several senior Nixon administration officials including former Attorney General John Mitchell, is one of those who believes that Dean – who has just published a book, “The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It” – has not been completely candid about what he knows. In a recent op-ed that appeared on the Fox News opinion website, Stone challenged Dean “to tell the truth about Watergate.”

"The mainstream media narrative about Watergate is a grotesque and fantastic distortion of historical fact,” Stone wrote, adding that “no one has sought to control this narrative more than former White House Counsel John Dean. Through his books, interviews, paid speeches, lawsuits and litigation Dean has spun the myth that he was a naïve and ambitious young man sucked into the Watergate cover-up by the evil Nixon and his men.”

 


A debate between Stone (Roger, not Oliver) and Dean would make for interesting television should anyone care to sponsor it – but something tells me Dean (with whom I appeared on television once or twice during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton) would never agree. Too bad, because the theatrical value alone would be tremendous even if it failed to resolve any points of historical importance that remain unclear.


 

Stone, it should be noted, has his own book to sell – "Nixon's Secrets: The Rise, Fall, and Untold Truth about the President, Watergate, and the Pardon" – in which he argues that there was more behind the 37th president’s downfall than what happened at Watergate. For example, he argues that the infamous “Deep Throat” was not, as later revealed, former Deputy FBI Director Mark Felt, but was a character made up out of whole cloth by the Washington Post’s Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward for reasons of their own.

There are others who suggest that the same people who – according to various conspiracy theorists, the late Jim Garrison, former district attorney of New Orleans, La., and movie director Oliver Stone (no relation) – maneuvered LBJ into the White House after JFK decided not to send the U.S. into Vietnam also took Nixon down as part of a plan to try to keep him from pulling the U.S. out of Vietnam.

Those who may actually know why five burglars with connections to the CIA, some going back as far as the abortive 1961 invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, broke into the DNC headquarters aren’t talking and probably never will. A debate between Stone (Roger, not Oliver) and Dean would make for interesting television should anyone care to sponsor it – but something tells me Dean (with whom I appeared on television once or twice during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton) would never agree. Too bad, because the theatrical value alone would be tremendous even if it failed to resolve any points of historical importance that remain unclear.

In the end, there is no denying that Nixon was guilty of many things but – as far as his decision to remove himself from office is concerned – did he jump or was he in fact pushed by forces outside his knowledge and beyond his control

http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/peter-roff/2014/08/11/figuring-out-the-why-of-richard-nixons-watergate-scandal?int=9e5708


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