The following is an excerpt from NEWSWEEK ARCHIVES | July 20, 2017 | Newsweek.com |
Richard Nixon published the first of his last words on Watergate as this week began - and revealed nothing quite so striking as the durability of his belief that it was all a terrible mistake. The opening worldwide wave of newspaper excerpts from his forthcoming memoir "RN" does concede Nixon's involvement in the cover-up from its earliest days and his persistent public misstatements about it. But the former President holds to defense that there was nothing criminal or impeachable about his role - only a fundamental miscalculation that old enemies with old grudges were out to get him. "I saw Watergate as politics pure and simple..." he writes. "Instead of exerting President leadership aimed at uncovering the cover-up, I embarked upon an increasingly desperate search for ways to limit the damage to my friends, to my Administration, and to myself."
What followed in the first newspaper installments was less a confession than a chronicle of sins of omission and errors of strategy - a skein begun, in his account, when he shrugged off the June 1972 Watergate break-in as "preposterous." He acknowledges having acquiesced in a scheme to use the CIA to turn off the FBI's investigation, and "as far as I was concerned," he says, "this was the end of our worries about Watergate." Nixon held stubbornly to his fatal first mistake - that Watergate "was just a public relations problem that only needed a public relations solution." It was John Dean who exploded that fantasy by telling the truth - or more of it, as memoirist Nixon now admits, than President Nixon did. "In the end," he says, "it would make less difference that I was not as involved as Dean had alleged than that I was not as uninvolved as I had claimed."
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