Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 23, 1974 · Page 4
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 4

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 23, 1974
Page 4
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Page 4 article text (OCR)

4.% White House Hatchetman's Spirit Is Cleansed 'A-M · - - - t - -^^t "tbxftf mrtf skvptu:*, to ? «**-.». Hut tt*r*- or*- utfctro uio *t* ui tif rMtt «*r*ioe o/ . (jtior/vj. M'. Cukvu u Itetsttu fur alt the aativn -- « fc By Lee ByrJ WASHINGTON tAP - He is a man whose reputation for cut-throat strategy was exceeded only by his lack of compassion for its victims, a fearless executor of power politics who reveled in success at "almost everything I've set out to do." And Chuck Colson would willingly set out. said President Nixon, to do anything at all. H. H. Haldeman called him "an operator in expediency.' "A cobra." said Communications Director Herbert G. Klein. "Chief asskicker around the White House." said Coison himself. But all that is changed. And now. by his own account. the power that Charles Wendell Colson seeks is the power of prayer. He has abandoned his "damnable pride and' ego." For, say.s Colson, "arrogance was the great sin. . .of alotof us. . .Wereal- ly are children of God." Not surprising, really. * * * O N K f B Y ONE, proud and powerful men of Richard Nixon's White House humble · themselves before special prosecutor Leon Jaworski and the courts of Watergate. For some, it seems, the criminal act has brought the equal but opposite cleansing of the spirit. It is a process as dramatic as the revelations of the scandal 'itself. Among those convicted, only the still-mute G. Gordon Liddy seems moved to be a tough guy to the end. John Dean's coverup is now the confession complete; Dwight Chapin's dirty tricks now abject apologies; Jeb Magruder's perjury now his proselytizing of principle; Egil Krogh's conspiracy to burgle now his concern for individual rights, and Richard G. Kleindienst's failure to testify fully now his greatest sorrow. No one demonstrates the phenomenon more profoundly than the latest to offer his testimonial to the Lady of Justice. Charles W. Colson, 42, is the convert of converts.. ; Fqr him. he- says, the light of truth Hawned not in fear of prison, nor cv?:, in the anguish of having his life disordered by protracted investor-Van. Rather than Jaworski, it was Jesus who swayed him to come clean and promise "to tell everything;l.,knpw,. ·'·'; :.-·'. Not that everybody believes it. In Washington, particularly, most a:.y thing these days is vipwoj through cynical eyes. "Ever since Chuck Colson got," according to one craCK heard on the cocktail circuit, "Dial-a-Prayer has been using an unlisted number." CHARLES COLSON A YEAR AGO Proud, Powerful Man Now Humbled On June 2, a Sunday, Hughes returned to his home at 9:15 p.m., after a trip to Iowa, to find his phone ringing. "Chuck asked me to come to his house as soon as I c o u l d , " said Hughes. "He had arrived at a decision." According to Hughes, Colson had worked it all out by himself: He had combed the statute books and settled upon an obscure law -- a felony rather than a mfsdemeanor -prohibiting the defamation of a person under indictment. He then informed his attorney, former law partner David I. Shapiro, and the special prosecutors that he was prepared to confess to having defamed Daniel Ellsberg during the Pentagon Papers case. Colson had affirmed his decision earlier on that rainy Sunday after he and his second wife, Patty -- the first. Mrs. Colson lives in Boston with their three daughters -got home from church. Although Colson remains a nominal Episcopalian, the couple goes to Roman Catholic mass ingtead because Patty is Catholic'. then, with Patty's support, Colson gathered his friends at · h i s comfortable McLean^Va., house, and, in a wood-paneled den lined with Nixon photos, he asked both their prayers and; their help in drafting his statement to the court the following day. "It was an emotional session," said Hughes. "We held hands. There were tears shed. '·· · . "Here was a' man who was willing to face a felony charge and take a step that would cost him his capacity to practice law. It was an example of complete and total commitment to Christ, to be a voice for truth at this time of political crisis." * * * ACTUALLY, whether Colson had a less severe alternative, as his associates believe he did, is a matter of dispute. Sources within the special prosecutor's office say Colson never had a firm offer of any deal short of pleading to a felony. The next morning, as the fleshy-cheeked, bespectacled Colson stood somberly before Judge Gerha'-:d Gesell and a startled courtroom crowd, Hughes and the others met to pray that his guilty plea to obstructing justice in the Ellsberg case would be accepted. . ' . "He's not out to nail anyone's hide to the barn door," says Hughes. "But he is going to tell the truth. If the chips fall in someone's backyard, that is tough, whether it is the President's or someone else's. , I think it. could make a differ. ehce to all' of us." Item: Colson is believed to have been squarely in the middle of the most explosive matter of all -- whether Nixon ordered payment of hush money to Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt. Item: According to New- sweek magazine, Colson already has told the prosecutors that "I won't destroy John Dean's credibility" and, as the man who most o f t e n t a l k e d w i t h N i x o n in the months after the Watergate . break-in, might testify that he informed the President of the coverup several weeks before the March 21, 1973, date that Nixon claims he first heard of it. T h a t Colson had sub that Colson is closer to this ors of questionable propriety. Nixon's own words, certain. The President, in an April 14, 1973, tape, tells John Dean that "Colson is closer to this crew of robbers than anybody else." The next day, Nixon characterized Colson as "up to his navel" in the affair. So, too, was Colson up to his navel in several, other endeavors of questinable propriety. It was Colson who allegedly got Hunt to forge State De. partment ·cables designed to implicate the late John F. Kennedy in the assassination of President Diem of South . Vietnam. Watergate committee testimony from Dean fingered .Colson as behind an alleged plot to firebomb the Brookihgs Institution. Colson is believed to have engineered the parole of former Teamsters President James R. Hoffa, in exchange for the union's political support. That is but a sampling of the kind of activity by which he came to be k n o w n -- and feared as the White House hatchetmaa. IN «7«, COLSON was the came at the heart of the De upon a group of senators whom Vice President Spiro T. Agnew later call the ··radic- libs." Three of them, Democrats Albert Gore of Tennessee and Joseph Tydings of Maryland and Republican Charles Goodell of New York, wei e beaten. Two years later, Colson trespassed on traditionally Democratic grounds by urging Nixon's special appeals to the Teamsters, hard hats. Roman Catholics and Spanish-speaking Americans. * * * BUT COLSON himself, who still chain smokes and gobbles antacid tablets despite his new "peace and serenity," sees it as having been more than that. To find Christ, he j told a prayer group in Michi- -j gan last month, he first had to abandon his "damnable pride and ego." Even after he left Nixon in March of 1973 to return to private practice, he said, "I had a terrible emptiness, a longing to find some other high mountain that I could scale." And scaling mountains was Colson's penchant long before he met Richard Nixon. Born Oct. 16, 1931, in Boston, Colson's formative years came at the heart of the depression. An only child, he watched his father work a regular job during the day and then spend hours at night stud y i n g for the law degree which earned Wendell Colson a job in the Boston office of the Securities and Exchange Commission. That aspiring spirit obviously caught hold. At the Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge, Colson became a star debater and was so good academically that Harvard offered him a scholarship. Colson knew that his chances 'for being a big man on campus were better at Brown University, where he was active in debating, student government and the Marine officers program. employed that this thing could be turned into a major public case against Ellsberg and coconspirators? Hunt: Yes. I do... with the proper resources. Colson: Well. 1 think the resources are there. * * » THUS BEGAN Colson's and Hunt's -- downfall. The "resources," it turned out, amounted to appointing Hunt a White House consultant, along with creation of the plumbers unit. After the 1972 election, Colson focused his attack upon the Washington Post, which then was publishing disclo- sures that White House aad campaign officials had been involved ia the Watergate burglary. There seemed no hard evidence with which to tie him to a crime, but when the Watergate committee sought to summon him in September 1973. he refused to testify on the ground he had been notified he was under investigation by a federal grand jury. Thus began the slide leading to the Watergate and plumbers indictments, now dismissed, and ultimately his confession as a felon. But it was a period, too, that produced an affirmation of reli- gious faith and, by all appearances, a new Chuck Colsoa. Tht Offices of are Mf«{ their tffices effective June 21, 1974 latin Wk AN EARLY sample of Colson's bare-knuckles tactics came in 1970 when he planted a. story with a national magazine that Tydings, a liberal,, had used his influence to land 'a $7 million State Department loan for a firm in which the senator had a financial interest. Tydings lost a close election, then was cleared of any wrongdoing a few days later in a government report. Many of the Colson episodes involved Hunt, a former CIA operative whom Colson met at a Brown alumni meeting. When the Pentagon Papers were leaked in 1971, Colson gave Hunt a call -- with his tape recorder running: Colson: Let me ask you this, Howard, this question. Do you think .with the right resources "I was pretty skeptical myself," says Sen. Harold Hughes, the deep-voiced Iowa Democrat who has become one of Colson's closest friends. Ironically, the liberal Hughes might have been trod upon himself by the former Nixon tactician if he hadn't withdrawn in the early .stages of the 1972 Democratic campaign for the presidential nomination. But despite being poles part politically, "I was completely convinced that Chuck had accepted Christ as his personal savior and we've been brothers in Christ ever since." By Hughes recollection, Colson first approached him t h r o u g h a m u t u a l f r i e n d , Douglas Coe, last October, a s k i n g for a face-to-face meeting to discuss a "conversion experience." The senator, who is retiring from Congress to devote himself fully to religious work, said, "I was reluctant to do that... 1 sent word to him that I would see him, but 1 wanted to ask some tough questions." Colson went to Hughes' home, and after a two-hour session in which hands were held and eyes grew moist, said Hughes, "I believed him." WITHIN WEEKS, Colson was meeting regularly with Hughes and three others Rep. Albert Quie, R-Minn. former Rep. Graham Purcel of Texas and Coe. a lay reli gious worker -- for prayer and fellowship. Colson was charged in bot the Watergate coverup an the plumbers cases, but h maintained innocence in both. The special prosecutors, his friends say. began to dangle lesser charges -- misdemeanors -- as alternatives to be traded for his vast knowledge as a member of Nixon's inner circle. "But he refused them." said Purcell. a former jurist as well as six-term congressman, "because hr was not guilty of them." Nonetheless, according to the prayer group members. Colson agonized over the dilemma, which kept him muzzled by the courts, pending his trials, as well as uncertain over IK future That Fabulous Wig YouWant At Great Savings! 9.90 , Is the neatly tapered back your C) style... or is the beautiful bustle back your choice? Do you prefer the young at heart page boy or the femme fatale, shoulder-length gypsy curls? 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