Project Wizard: Dick Nixon’s Brazen Plan for Post-Watergate RedemptionRoundup
tags: presidents, Watergate, Nixon
...Nixon’s fatal flaw was that he saw “enemies” everywhere; he was filled with resentments. He’d been looked down on all his life, he believed, by people of greater means. An awkward man, essentially a loner—he had very few friends—he never quite fit in, and he resented those who did. Most seriously, he confused political opponents with enemies. And so he came into office prepared to “get ’em.” Thus the White House hired thugs to spy on his “enemies,” including potential opponents in 1972, to “get the goods” on them. Nixon hired as his aides the kinds of people who would carry out his bizarre and even criminal orders. He didn’t understand boundaries. A major reason for Gerald Ford’s pardon was to put Nixon’s tribulations behind the country and to allow it to move on to other matters. When Nixon gave his final, iconic, two-hand V-shaped wave and boarded the helicopter parked in the South Lawn of the White House to take him to the plane for California, the nation had every reason to think that at last he was gone. He had made his troubles ours, had taken us on a wild ride through history but now he would be out of sight. Finished.
But this was a great misunderstanding of Richard Nixon: As he’d said so many times before—he wasn’t “a quitter.” It wasn’t in his nature to give up. He’d come back from innumerable defeats and setbacks throughout most of his existence. He’d lost the presidency in 1960 and the governorship of California two years later. Everyone knew that Nixon was finished then. Six years later he was elected president. (Only three other people in our history had lost the presidency and then won it, none of them in modern times.)
And so this remarkably resilient man wasn’t about to quit now. Determined and methodical as usual, with the help of aides who had gone with him to San Clemente at government expense, Nixon made a plan. This secret plan, codenamed Wizard, was one to regain respectability. He would show ’em again. What would have crushed most people to Richard Nixon was another crisis to be overcome.But this was a new kind of struggle—not for something as tangible and requiring such fairly conventional means (even for him) as political office, but to rehabilitate his reputation. How, exactly, does one in this unprecedented situation go about that? Most people wouldn’t have dared to try. But Richard Nixon was as driven about this struggle as he had been about those that had gone before.
“This time it was different,” the aide responded.
“Yes,” Nixon replied quietly. “This time we had something to lose.”...