Lubbock Avalanche-Journal from Lubbock, Texas on April 8, 1975 · Page 37
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Lubbock Avalanche-Journal from Lubbock, Texas · Page 37

Lubbock, Texas
Issue Date:
Tuesday, April 8, 1975
Page 37
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Page 37 article text (OCR)

AVALANCHE-JOURNAL— Wednesday Morning. April 9, 1975 Personal Agony, National Turmoil Mark Resignation (EDITOR'S NOTK - Palnitaklnj repor- lane, and pirllclBanll no* free 10 talk, have tlelded new knowledge about lhf» aweiome episode In American history. the loppllnj of I President. Wllh Iht pieces in pUce, |ht tamiliar and the new. II It now possible — lor Ihe lint time, really - 10 tet ll whole: lae In- rvnrablc undoing, led hy decell, of a man tut a government. What lollops here Is not Just high dram<l eloquently told; ft is Inal. but II is also a document, a compelling account of t lingular event in the national experience.) By SAUL PETT AP Special Correspondent Copyright (c) 1975 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. (Continued from Tuesday) He talked at length about the events of 1972 to demonstrate once again that he was so preoccupied with detente, the opening of China, Vietnam and other things that he failed to give close attention to his own re-election campaign. "One thing I have learned," he told the cabinet, which had heard it all before, "is never allow anybody else to run your campaign." He reviewed the tapes he had released the day before, sliding by the fact that those tapes showed him very much involved in the details of his campaign. He said in his opinion and that of his counsel he had not committed an im- pcachable offense. He said he had considered resignation but now thought it his "constitutional duty" to remain in office and let the constitutional process proceed to the end, "whatever the end maybe." Across the table, directly opposite, Vice President Ford said lie would no longer speak uul on impeachment mtters. "I understand," said the President. And then, without socking further comment on (he subject, he discussed the economy for the next 50 minutes. As the meeting ended, one man walked out thinking: "ft was as if your daughter had just given birth to a bastard and there she was chattering or. about, dates and dances and the band at the country club.'' Two hours later, as the- storm whipped around the Hill, Richard Nixon met with Rabbi Korff, who had been trying to organize national support for him. The President now said he would resign, adding, according to his visitor: "I really don't care if they want to prosecute me and put me in prison. I don't want a pardon." The rabbi objected but the President persisted. Not to resign, he said, would mean that American Ordeal: Part 3 the country would be at a standstill during months of the impeachment process; domestic problems would remain unsolved and the paralysis might invite "the danger of foreign acts." Why had Nixon changed his mind? "That," the rabbi said later, "bordered on his inner conflict and turmoil." In their meeting, the President said his family was putting great pressure on him to remain in office. He asked the rabbi to talk to them. Which raises a small but curious point. "Nobody," a member of the family recalled later, "was trying to get him to do anything." The family was not pushing the President in any direction; it was merely trying to sustain him in whatever decision he made. WEDNESDAY, AUG. 7 Gen. Haig phoned Sen! Scott in the'morning and said that the President had been "almost persuaded several times" to resign, "the problem now is the family/' Haig said, presumably echoing what his boss had told him. He said the President wanted to see Scott. Sen. Barry Goldwater and Rep. John Rhodes, Scott's counterpart as minority leader in the House. If his resignation is demanded, Haig said, Nixon probably would "harden up again" to stay. It would be better if the three leaders simply told him the situation in Congress. "He needs to hear it from you. He needs to know there are no alternatives, nothing else.' 1 At 1:30 p.m., William E. Timmons, Nixon's liaison man with Congress, called Scott, who was still keeping a diary. "He's very much up and down. At one point, lie's talking about getting out, at another about his family telling him to fight it out. He's very up-tight. He's very disturbed. He certainly isn't going to resign until he meets with the leaders." "Does he know how bad it is?" "I expect he does ... His mind nowadays is dominated by this mist, this series of problems." In mid-afternoon, Gerald Ford told Robert Hartmann, a close advisor, to begin drafting an inaugural address on a contingency basis. Harlman went to work in Room 282 of the Executive Offices Building. In Room 1L5, a floor below, Ray Price was working on a Nixon resignation speech on a contingency basis, Neither writer knew whether he was writing for the waste basket or history. At 4:30 p.m., Scott, Goldwater and Rhode went to the White House. They met first with Haig. Scott kept meticulous notes of all his conversations that day. Haig: "He's been up and down. It's about 90 per cent set with him now. Please don't raise the question of resignation. He knows what you're going to tell him about the situation. He needs to hear it from you." Goldwater: "He'll get the truth. Is that what he wants?" Haig: "That's what he expects." At 5 p.m., Richard Nixon received the three men in the Oval Office, There was no preliminary small talk, contrary to custom. The President put his feet up on his desk, an old habit, Scott thought, to conceal his tension. President: "Well, we are all aware of why you're here. Who wants to open up?" Scott: "We've asked Barry to be our spokesman." President: "Go ahead, Barry." Goldwater: "Well, Mr. President, this isn't pleasant but you want to. know the situation and it isn't good ..." President: "Pretty bad, eh?" Goldwater: "Yes, sir. We've discussed the thing a lot. Just about all of the senators have spoken up and there aren't very many who would support you if it comes to that. Some are very worried about what's been going on ... and I'm one of ALONE—As the Watergate scandal grew and his popularity faded, Richard Nixon was left increasingly alone with the ultimate decision to resign resting on him alone. {AP Wirepholo) them," President: "How many would you say would be with me? A half dozen?" Goldwater: "More than that, maybe 16 or 18." President: "Hugh, do you agree with that?" Scott: "Mr. President, I'd say maybe 15. It's grim..." President: "Damn grim! (to Rhodes, who had come out for impeachment the day before) John, I know how you feel, what you've said, I respect it, but what's your estimate?" Rhodes: "About the same, Mr. President." Scott: "Mr. President, we are all very saddened but we have to tell you the facts." President: "Never mind, there'll be no tears. I haven't cried since Eisenhower died. My family have been fine. I'm going to be all right ... Well, thank you." These were the facts. This was the wall, and there was no way around, over or through it. If he did not resign, Richard Nixon would become the first president in history to be impeached, convicted and removed from office. If he left of his own choice, he would be the first to resign. For a man who prized his "historic firsts," this was the ultimate choking irony. There was one more problem. That day, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, his former confidantes, asked for last-minute pardons. "The President had no deal himself," said an assistant. "One of his concerns was whether he'd be prosecuted, These men could testify against him. So he did consider pardons for them but he decided he couldn't and shouldn't do it." With that out of the way, he edged closer to the "inevitable reality." Some time between 7:15 and 7:30 p.m. he talked once more with Haig. President: "Al, are you sure this is the right course?" Haig: "Mr; President, this is the right course for the country, for you and everyone else." Richard Nixon left the Oval Office. He walked the graceful connecting collonade to the home of Presidents, rode the elevator to the third floor and entered the bright yellow and green Solarium. There, in the most private of the family rooms, with its sweeping view of the Capitol dome, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial, he told his family he would resign. His two daughers wept. Pat Nixon, the trouper in a thousand campaign stops good and bad, held on. The spell was snapped by a knock on the door. There was Ollie Atkins, the White House photographer, present as ordered. The incongruity of his appearance in a moment of ultimate private pain brought some laughter. "Ollie," said Mrs. Nixon, "we're always glad to see you but I don't think we need any pictures now." "Oh, come on, Ollie," said Richard Nixon, "make a few shots." Later in the evaoing, the President asked Hetfcy Kissinger to the mansion and told him of his decision. He talked about his family and his Quakerism and his deep devotion to peace. He asked his Secretary of State if he would be remembered for bringing world peace in his time. Kissinger said he thought he would. He talked of many things until after midnight. Kissinger went back to his office in the west wing of the White House. The phone rang. Nixon wanted to talk some more. It was difficult, so difficult, to let go of history. THURSDAY, AUG. 8 The President, never a sound sleeper, had slept less than usual. After midnight, he was on the phone to Ray Price, dictating changes in his resignation speech. Between 3:45 and 5 a.m. he called Price three times with more ideas, mostly about foreign policy. Price now knew this was no contingency speech. The Nixon family knew it. Several others knew but the man who most needed to know for certain didn't. Vice President Ford, who was in no position to press the point, knew resignation was likely but he didn't know for sure or when. Ford said nothing but the people around him, trying to plan a transition, had felt frustrated for several dayL. • "It was like your grandmother was lying dead under a shroud in the next room," said one man, "and nobody would admit that granny was in there dead." At 10:50 a.m. Thursday morning, the President had Price in to the Oval Office to discuss the finishing touches of his resignation speech. Now it was time for his scheduled 11 a.m. appointment with the Vice President. On the way,in, Ford was stopped by Haig. "We still don't know for certain which way he's going," said the President's chief of staff. "He has wavered repeatedly." Seated at his desk, its top swept clean, Richard Nixon was once more sheathed in his well-ordered calm, in his well- ordered, impersonal office. "Jerry," he began, "you'll do a good job." And that is how Gerald Rudolph Ford learned from the 37th President of the United States that he was about to become the 38th. For all its historic quality, the meeting lacked the overt drama of what either man felt, one on the way down from the golden peak, the other on the way up. Ford asked for any suggestions and Nixon talked at length in a practical businesslike way about the problems of the office, especially foreign policy, and the talents of Henry Kissinger. Ford said little. ("What the hell could I say in those circumstances?") Nixon thanked him for his support over the months in which Ford had proclaimed the'President's innocence. There is no indication that this expression of gratitude included an apology for what most politicians regard as mortal sin: to let the other fellow catch your mud in his eye without, at least, a whispered warning to duck. The business of the Nixon administration ground down with a veto of an appropriations bill for environmental, consumer and rural assistance programs. The rest was routine — resignations, appointments, the inexorable flow of a massive bureaucracy. The president's pool ol typists closed down. Staff members lingered long over their luncheon martinis, reluctant to return, and outside the White House, along the Pennsylvania Avenue fence, crowds materialized in that quiet, mystical way people have of appearing before the home of Presidents in times of crisis. In a corridor of the West Wing, the President passed his physician. "How are you?" asked Dr. Walter Tkash. "Everything is fine," said Richard Nixon, moving on. He spent most of the afternoon in his EOB office across from the White House. When it was time to return, he let it be known he did not want to be seen making the short walk between the two buildings. Thus, reporters were literally locked in the press room while the President made the last passage. On the way, he asked an aide, "Do you think I'm doing the right thing?" "No," said the loyal aide, at the edge of his control. Nixon met with the leaders of Congress and then with special friends from the Hill, his most loyal supporters. To those, who at the risk of their own credibility and careers, had protested his innocence while he knew better, he said, "I just hope I haven't let you down." He left in tears. He explained to the TV makeup lady, "My allergy must be acting up." He went into the Oval Office for his resignation speech, fighting tears with snappishness. "I don't need any agents around for this," he told the Secret Service, They stayed. At 9 p.m. Richard Nixon looked squarely into the red eye of the television camera and began his 37th and last speech to the American people from the Oval Office. In offices around the West Wing, where his assistants watched on TV, and in the Solarium of the residence, where his family watched, there were people murmuring, almost audibly, "Hurry, hurry." They feared he would not be able to get through the speech without breaking down. Six years ago to the day, Richard Nixon had told a cheering Republican National Convention, which had just nominated him, "America is in trouble today not because her people have failed but because her leaders have failed." Now it was his failure, deeper, more personal than any in the long march of Presidents, but he scarcely mentioned it. He acknowledged some errors of judgment, not of morality, and quickly wrapped them in "what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the nation." He said he was resigning because he had lost his support in Congress. He did not say why he had lost that support. He reminded the world again that he was no "quitter," said he would have preferred to fight on but, instead, felt obliged to "put the interest of America first." He injected into his departure a note of martyrdom. He talked about the accomplishments of his administration. He compared himself to Theodore Roosevelt's "man in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood ... (who) knows in the end the triumphs of high achievement and ... if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly." He did not recall something else the same Roosevelt said: "No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." Richard Nixon got. through that speech without tears. His family, back in the solarium, didn't. His daughters wept and finally, in the words of Bonnie Angelo in Life Magazine, "Pat Nixon, once more the bride of failure, began to sob." The President walked back alone to the residence. There, David Eisenhower, a veteran of the White House in two administrations, marvell- ed at a wondrous change. "Suddenly," he said, "the White House as an institution dropped the pretense that nothing was wrong. Suddenly, the servants had disappeared and even the Secret Service had peeled away. It was so different; even the first floor was deserted. It had occurred to somebody that on this last night the family might want to be alone." In his home, Clarence Kelley, director of the FBI, snapped off his TV set after the President's speech and called his office. He was worried about "the charged air of the situation." He was concerned that "some group might try to take advantage of the country's weakened condition and try something." He ordered FBI headquarters to check all its field offices throughout the country. Nothing, it turned out, was happening. At the White House, around midnight, Steve Bull went to the West Wing to collect, as he usually did before a trip, things the President would want on the flight to California the next day. The Oval Office was dark. A' single Secret Service man stood guard in the corridor. Bull went in and, reaching into the center drawer of the President's desk, gathered up his reading glasses and calendar pad. Without thinking, he opened a small silver music box given the President several years before by White House reporters. He slammed the box shut as soon as he realized it was playing "Hail to the Chief." The President was up late his last night in the White House. He was still on the phone after midnight. To various assistants, he expressed his gratitude and the hope he hadn't let them down. He called several friends. To one, he observed, "some of the best political writing has been done from jail." Shortly after 1 a.m.. Sen. Harry Byrd of Virginia received a call. "I'm sorry to phone so late," said Richard Nixon. "I just wanted to know if you fee) I took the proper course." He was assured he had. FRIDAY, AUG. 9 In the broad, marble foyer, the Marine Orchestra was playing an incongruously gay medley of show tunes from Oklahoma, South Pacific and other old favorites. It is through this foyer that one enters the White House from the Pennsylvania Avenue side, past the portraits of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to the long, red-carpeted Cross Hall. To the right, down the Cross Hall, past the small elevator that leads to the family quarters, is the elegant crystal chandeliered State Dining Room. It was here that John Adams once had an inscription put on a fireplace mantle: "I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof." At the opposite end of the Cross Hall, past the portraits of Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman, past the grand staircase and likenesses of Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, is the simple gold and white beauty of HAPPIER DAYS—Surrounded by admirers early in his second . term, Nixon's popularity and credibility steadily withered under the dark cloud of the Watergate scandal. (AP Wirephoto) the East Room.' It was here that the family of John Adams, the first to live in the White House, once hung its wash, here that federal troops bivouaced in Abraham Lincoln's time, here that children roller-skated on the parqueted floors in Theodore Roosevelt's time. It was also in the East Room that Presidents danced with their ladies, entertained kings and prime ministers and here that they lay in state. At 9:30 a.m., Friday, August 9, the East Room was filled to overflowing with Richard Nixon's cabinet and staff, who had come to hear his farewell. At the other end of the corridor, the elevator door opened on the President and his family. It was clear that the ladies had wept saying their goodbyes to the household staff above. Pat Nixon wore dark glasses. Her daughters' eyes were red. In the doorway, the family looked to the left, toward the East Room, and paused, as if reluctant to proceed. Steve Bull began to brief the President as usual. "Sir, there will be three television cameras, on the left and..." "Television! who authorized television?" asked Pat Nixon, who apparently had hoped this last ordeal would escape the eyes of a national audience. "I did," said the President, "and we're going to do it. We owe it to them." In the corridor, the President spotted Ken Clawson, his Director of .Communications and one of his most aggressive defenders. The President smiled and waved thumbs-up. Clawson dissolved in tears. "You'll be all right, Ken." Richard Nixon said as he went by. "You're tough." Pat Nixon removed her dark glasses and they walked toward the East Room. As they did, the doors opened, and they heard the introduction, "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States and ..." And they heard the orchestra play "Hail to the Chief," and they heard it all for the last time. They entered the East Room to a stirring, standing ovation and they mounted a small platform between the portraits of George Washington and Doiley Madison, and Richard Nixon began. He talked about the beauty and warmth of the house he was leaving and the devotion of the household staff, He talked about his pride in his cabinet and in his executive staff and he said no member of his administration had ever profited at the public expense. He talked about the ultimate reward of work in a cause larger than one's self. He talked about the pride of achieve- rnent the people of his administration could pass on to their children, and now he was reminded of his father. "I remember my old man," •.he said, fighting tears. "I think that they would have called him sort of a little man, a common man. He didn't consider himself that way..." He talked about his mother, and he came to tears. "Nobody'll ever write a book, probably, about my mother. Well, I guess all of you would say this about your mother. My mother was a saint. And I think of her, two boys dying of tuberculosis, nursing four others in order that she could take care of my older brother for three years in Arizona and seeing each of them die ... Yes, she will have no books written about her, butshe'sa saint." He talked about Teddy Roosevelt again and, for the first time in public, he let go of a tiny part of his image. He put on glasses to read what • Roosevelt had written about hi.s dying wife. ".. . And when ' my heart dearest died, the life went from my life forever." But still teddy Roosevelt became President, Richard Nixon went on, and even in death or the loss of an election a man must persevere, because "the greatness comes • not when things go always , good for you, but the' greatness comes when you're really touchy, when you take ' your knocks, some disappointment, when sadness conies, because only if you've been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain." Standing on the platform behind him, David Eisenhower thought how hard his father- in-law had worked to become' President, how he had wanted it more than anything else in the world and wanted to do a good job, and now "it was like watching a man die." Out front, a senior member of the Nixon Administration, with a rather clinical view, thought, "My God, he's beginning to break down in a flow of associations, a picture of a man unraveling." The President closed with a fervent expression of thanks to those who had served him and with this admonition: "Never be petty. Always remember: others may hate you. Those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself." And then he was gone. On the way out of the South Portico, he paused to make a nervous little joke to Gerald Ford about the lounge chair in the Lincoln Sitting Room belonging to him, not the White House. "Good luck. Mr. President," he said, and soon was in the helicopter. On the way to Andrews Air Force Base with his wife, their elder daughter and her- husband, not a word was spoken. And then he was on! Air Force One, for the last time, heading west. • Meanwhile, his pictures, were coming down in the corridors of the White House, while Gerald Ford's were go-' ing up. In the East Room, the new' President stirred his audience when he said, "Our long nightmare is over ... Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws, and not of men." The applause for Gerald • Ford could be heard on the second floor where Julie Nixon ' Eisenhower had remained behind to pack. She wept. On Air Force One, Richard Nixon finally left the solitude' of his private compartment. He came back to cheer up the small staff still with him. He , walked to the aft section/ where reporters used to ride. • It was now occupied by Secret Service agents, and Richard ; Ni.xon, who could see the destructive quality of hate in ; others, made another of his nervous little jokes: ' "Smells a whole lot better . inhere, doesn't it?" * Across the land that day,the tears were nonpartisan. There were tears among people who liked him and there were tears among peo- '. pie who never liked him. The thought they had in common • was that this could happen to , a man. And to a country.

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