June 17, 2014

In the context of the (arguably) destroyed IRS email, let's revisit an old question: Why didn't Richard Nixon destroy the Watergate tapes?

I've taught the Watergate Tapes case — United States v. Nixon — for 20 years, and I think I always include what I believe is a central question about that case and about law more generally: Why didn't Richard Nixon destroy the Watergate tapes?

Nixon had possession of the tapes, and no physical force prevented his people from starting an "accidental" fire or causing a chance encounter with magnets... Yeah, bitch, magnets....

Here's the description in the book "The Brethren" of how Nixon reacted to the news of the Supreme Court's decision:
His Chief of Staff, Alexander M. Haig, told him that the Supreme Court decision had just come down. Nixon had seriously contemplated not complying if he lost, or merely turning over excerpts of the tapes or edited transcripts. He had counted on there being some exception for national security matters, and at least one dissent. He had hoped there would be some “air” in the opinion. 

“Unanimous?” Nixon guessed.

“Unanimous,” Haig said. “There is no air in it at all.”

“None at all?” Nixon asked.

“It’s tight as a drum.”

After a few hours spent complaining to his aides about the Court and the Justices, Nixon decided that he had no choice but to comply. Seventeen days later, he resigned.
So, why didn't Richard Nixon destroy the Watergate tapes? 3 ideas for an answer:

1. Nixon was part of the American culture of the rule of law that had grown and deepened over the years. We were long past the days when Andrew Jackson (supposedly) said: "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" This is the answer I've always liked, and I can see that if I like it too much I'm falling prey to the age-old human foible of believing what you want to believe.

2. Nixon knew that if he said the tapes were destroyed, no one would accept any attempt to explain it away as a mishap, and he'd be impeached forthwith. It was nothing other than the best self-serving political move he could make at that point.

3. Nixon was, in fact, a fool not to destroy the tapes.
"I had bad advice, bad advice from well-intentioned lawyers who had sort of a cockeyed notion that I would be destroying evidence," Nixon said years later in a videotaped interview. "I should have destroyed them."
Let's compare the IRS email story. There are some differences:

1. Nixon was more hated and people weren't apt to cut him any slack, and Obama, whatever he does, is relentlessly liked.

2. The press was bearing down hard on Nixon — "They're after me! The president. They hate my guts. That's what they're after." — and the press is ever ready to give Obama a boost.

3. Nixon seemed tricky and shifty, unlike Obama, whose lies seem less... lie-like.

4. Tapes are bigger, bulkier objects, and email is evanescent.

5. Nixon, actually, at some level, felt shame about transgressing what another branch of government says is the law, and Obama has great confidence in asserting his view of the law and sticking to it. 

6. The Watergate scandal was about unlawful actions intended to help reelect the President, and... oh, wait... that's not a difference.


campy said...

Bottom line, Nixon was simply a better human being than Zero.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

I think the problem was one of agency. Nixon didn't feel he could do it himself, or ask someone to do it for him. His underlings didn't think to do it themselves, or thigh of it and didn't want to chance it.

There is the 18.5 minute gap of course. Maybe his strategy was to destroy what he thought was the worst and take his chances with the rest.

The enduring mystery about Watergate is that we don't really know why they did it.

Did he really do it to win the 1972 election? I think it had more to do with not wanting his plans to wind down the Vietnam War disrupted. Was he just paranoid? Or was it just the President's men?

David said...

It was an act of desperation, most likely. The emails were so damaging that they concluded it would be better to destroy them than produce. Destruction may lead to a long and nasty political-legal fight. Production leads to disgrace and jail.

They are counting on the news media and a complacent public to bail them out.

Is it certain it happened this way? Of course not. But it's a pretty plausible explanation, especially now that it seems that Lois Lerner's computer was not the only one that had a convenient "crash."

The break comes when one weasel turns on another of the weasels. But that won't happen until they are under intense pressure. That pressure surely is not going to come from the Justice Department. Or the President. Or (most likely) the media.

It's easier to be a corrupt democrat than a corrupt republican.

Stephen said...

I'd add Difference #7: there were important members of Nixon's own party who would have objected to Nixon's destruction of evidence, e.g., Senate Ranking Minority Leader Howard Baker and six Republican House Judiciary Committee members who voted yes on the Articles of Impeachment. In the Executive Branch we know that Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Are there any prominent Democrats who have broken with Obama? On anything?

Anonymous said...

With the lies & precedents now set by Liberals, there is no need to keep recordings such as these. They can be destroyed & then a lie can be spoken as a reason for their destruction. This will apply to Conservatives also.

Original Mike said...

"Bottom line, Nixon was simply a better human being than Zero."

Yeah. And that's really saying something, isn't it?

Brando said...

Nixon's downfall was his lack of self-confidence. Can you imagine Obama, Bush, or Clinton cracking like Nixon did? No--one thing those three had in common was a sure sense of being in the right and that history would judge them positively. It enabled each of them to work the press far better than Nixon could, and stand up to courts they considered illegitimate or a Congress they despised.

I imagine in Nixon's shoes a guy like Clinton would handle it the same way he handled his own scandals--lashing out at the right, coralling his own hard core supporters, and working the media narrative. Watergate would have been treated as a burglary by campaign underlings, and Clinton's actions since the break-in would have been treated like an internal investigation. John Dean would have been smeared--more effectively by Clinton, as he would have used lapdogs in the press to do it--and Archie Cox would have been trashed the way Ken Starr was. Clinton just would have been far more effective than Nixon.

We'll see how this IRS scandal plays out, but I suspect Obama has kept himself well distanced because his governing style has been all "lead from behind". He may have not even known about this stuff, and I can believe it because he doesn't seem to know anything going on in his administration. Had he been president during Watergate, he would have found out about the burglary about two years after it happened, and gone to play golf while someone way down the chain of command handled the dirty stuff.

Original Mike said...

"1. Nixon was part of the American culture of the rule of law that had grown and deepened over the years. "

I never thought I'd see the day that an American president would have less respect for the rule of law than Nixon, but here we are.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

The rule of law has taken many debilitating blows the last few years. It's like everything Obama said about Bush when running in 2008 has come to be true about Obama -- signing statements, ignoring the will of Congress, harming our allies and strengthening our enemies, "making Al Queda stronger" (remember that one?). Yep, it's gonna be hard to run the Onion by the time this dude's done living in the White House.

Original Mike said...

Has Althouse realized she voted for Nixon?

bleh said...

Even if Nixon didn't harbor political hopes or believe in "the rule or law" (i.e., judicial supremacy), he still could have turned over the tapes because he loved his country and didn't want to provoke a divisive constitutional crisis. Who knows what might have transpired, or what form of government might have taken the place of the crumbling republic.

Michael The Magnificent said...

Name one Democrat with enough integrity to ask what Obama knew, and when he knew it.

Hagar said...

Republicans and Democrats tend to have different ideas as to what each side considers crooked behavior, which is also why they tend to talk past each other when they go to call each other names.

Note that Mr. Nixon's men, as far as I can remember, all lived within their salaries and personal means.

Rumpletweezer said...

The tapes were going to be his legacy. That's why the system was installed in the first place. He couldn't bring himself to destroy them or let anyone else destroy them.

Gahrie said...

he still could have turned over the tapes because he loved his country and didn't want to provoke a divisive constitutional crisis

Could be. It is the reason he didn't pull a Gore in 1960.

Emil Blatz said...

Hold the phone there on 3.1 - the shelf life on Obama's personal likeability has been up for about 6 months.

One of the best aspects of Obama's failure with the Obamacare implementation and this IRS matter is that the people who have the greatest faith in information technology typically have the least understanding of how it works. Both the website for Obamacare and the typical e-mail system, even an archaic one like the IRS installation, generates reams of internal metadata that is itself evidence of how well the application processing is going, or how likely it was that there really was a crash and file obliteration as suggested. The House GOP should be all over this shid, if only then knew what they were looking for...

Bob Ellison said...

I'm with campy. It comes down to your reason #1: it just wasn't cricket in Nixon's day. You didn't destroy evidence, even if you knew it might well destroy your career.

The Obama left of today (that is, most of the American left) thinks lying is totally cool, totally fine, totes justifiable in the political game. The American right still isn't there.

Furthermore, the "hard drive crash" line will probably sell. People are just that stupid and old-fashioned. There hasn't been a hard-drive crash in important matters in thirty years, but Obama's spinners know it'll work. "Hard drive crash". That's something people can believe in!

jacksonjay said...

Shorter Althouse: Obama is a psychopath enabled by psychopaths!

Bob Ellison said...

David said "...it's a pretty plausible explanation..."

Plausible in the sense of seeming believable. But it is 100% false. It is a blatant and provable lie.

John Fund is correct: Congress should call all of the IT folks and anyone else involved with creating and spreading this lie and require them to testify to its effect. Someone will cave, and they will all lack jobs pretty soon.

Bob R said...

"Note that Mr. Nixon's men, as far as I can remember, all lived within their salaries and personal means."

And their wives had "good Republican cloth coats."

DavidD said...

"...and Obama, whatever he does, is relentlessly liked."

Not by everyone. Sheesh; have you seen his approval ratings lately?

jr565 said...

Nixon was simply more honorable than Obama.

eddie willers said...

G. Gordon Liddy thinks they were sent in by the nebbish John Dean to protect his (way too hot for him) wife Maureen who was a former prostitute and was best friend with the Madam that procured prostitutes for top DNC donors out of that office.

Being that everyone (and I mean everyone) knew that Nixon was an absolute lock for re-election, his reason for being in the office makes more sense than bugging the phones of a sure loser.

jr565 said...

There is no Bernstein and Woodward out to crack the case. And hollywood isn't going to make a movie about it. They could care less.

Steve M. Galbraith said...

I'd suggest:

7. He didn't think he did anything wrong.

Then, when he started to listen to them and realized he was indeed in trouble, it was too late. He tried to erase one - the 18 1/2 minute gap - but realized it was too much to do.

jr565 said...

Speaking of Watergate, The Pentagon papers didn't actually say anything bad about Nixon. They said bad things about Kennedy & Johnson and our foreign policy of the past. SO he wasn't even trying to get damage on Ellsberg to protect his ass, but rather he wanted to get evidence on someone who would attempt to damage the credibility of presidents past.

Michael K said...

" Nixon was part of the American culture of the rule of law that had grown and deepened over the years. "

Remember Nixon refused William Rogers' offer to contest the 1960 election, which would probably have been overturned as there was obvious fraud in Illinois and Texas.

He was a patriot. Gore was too until he thought better of it. Obama ? Not on your tintype.

Big Mike said...

Obama, whatever he does, is relentlessly liked.

Not by all of us, my dear.

Fred Drinkwater said...

That video clip is from the only episode of Breaking Bad I watched. The espisode was so incredibly implausible that I never watched another.

Michael K said...

"The enduring mystery about Watergate is that we don't really know why they did it."

It was a successful coup d' tat by Mark Felt..

The Nixon people did nothing that LBJ hadn't done.

Fred Drinkwater said...

That clip is from the only episode of Breaking Bad I ever watched. It was so ridiculously implausible that I could not be bothered to watch any more.

Wince said...

Soon it will be time for Althouse to change her "Obama is like Nixon" tag to...

"Obama is worse than Nixon."

Thorley Winston said...

"Bottom line, Nixon was simply a better human being than Zero."

Arguably so was Checkers.

Matt Sablan said...

Looks like they had to not only have a hard drive crash but also a set of papers disappear and another server explode or something.

In short: Nope, the dog did not eat your homework. Try Again.

jr565 said...

At least that was the reasoning behind the start of the various break ins. He also bugged a lot of dems but it was because he though there was a "vast left wing conspiracy" out to destroy his presidency. Which is probably true.

garage mahal said...

Has Althouse realized she voted for Nixon?

Are these lost emails anything like secret routers?

mccullough said...

The reason Nixon turned them over is because everyone knew h had the tapes.

Just search the White House, DOJ, FEC, and FBI email servers and backups for emails to and from Lerner from this time period.

Unlike the Nixon tapes, there are multiple copies of these emails. If the IRS doesn't have them, as it claims, the others will.

That unanimous Supreme Court case means the White House has to turn the emails over. Also, this should be no problem for The Most Transparent Administration Ever.

Anthony said...

Far simpler: Obama et al think they can get away with it. And they're probably right.

Tim said...

Obama is not relentlessly "liked". He is an asshole.

Patrick Henry was right! said...

Why should we respect the rule of law in light of the Obamacare opinion by the Chief Justice, the federal courts creating a federal Constitutional right relating in any way to marriage, much less homosexual marriage, the President refusing to enforce the immigration laws, the IRS used as a political weapon and not even an investigation by the Justice Department, federal judges overturning voter ID in spite of a Supreme Court decision that approved it, war in Libya without Congressional approval, releasing Gitmo detainees without legal authorization, EPA declaring CO2 a pollutent when it is a necessary ingredient for life and, of course, the mother of all unlawful acts (pun intended) a federal Constitutional right for a mother to kill her baby?

And the federal government wants respect for the law.

Larry J said...

Michael The Magnificent said...
Name one Democrat with enough integrity to ask what Obama knew, and when he knew it.

And this is why I will never vote for another democrat as long as I live. They may cast some votes under my name after I'm dead but I can't help that.

campy said...

"Not by all of us, my dear."

Your opinion doesn't count.

Bruce Hayden said...

Nixon was simply more honorable than Obama.

And, yes, acceptance and observance of the rule of law.

The first time I think some of us noticed the politicization of justice on the left was when the Senate Dems, despite overwhelming evidence that the President lied under oath, voted not to remove Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial. They didn't vote for the rule of law, but for political power.

But, this Administration has taken this to new heights. Winning is everything, because once you win, you control the levers of justice, get to determine what laws are enforced, and against whom. And can easily squelch any attempts at challenging the legitimacy of that win and that power. So, Eric Holder, with a long history of being a political fixer, starts by dismissing the consent agreement by the New Black Panthers, and went on to challenge voter ID laws, and ignore blatant voter fraud. In this Administration, it isn't a crime if it helps the Administration.

With an honorable President, his Attorney General would have been dumped the minute he was found in contempt of Congress. But, of course, he wasn't, and so when there is ample evidence of numerous federal crimes, and esp. in regards to Ms. Lerner (most recently, the apparent commission of a felony by sending confidential taxpayer information to the criminal (and not tax) division of the DoJ), and another Contempt of Congress vote, the AG does nothing. He doesn't have to, because the President has his back, and he has the President's.

It has been that way since the beginning of the Obama Administration. The mid level managers behind Fast and Furious were never disciplined, but rather were ultimately promoted. Making things worse, with the lead of the DoJ, the rot has expanded to much of the government - D'Sousa being politically prosecuted for behavior that is common among Obama's mega-donors, to the IRS persecuting his enemies, to Harry Reid calling out his personal SWAT team to clear the cattle from his son's client's solar farm. The list just goes on - with so many Dems, and esp. those in power, it is no longer about right and wrong, about the Rule of Law, but rather, it is only about power, and what they can do with it.

Bruce Hayden said...

And the federal government wants respect for the law.

Not really. The Dems running the government want respect for their power. The law, and its very selective enforcement in the Holder DoJ, is just a means to that end.

ken in tx said...

Among other things, the Watergate burglars were looking for evidence that the Democrats were receiving support from the Soviet Union and communist front organizations. They didn't find it; however, when the Soviet Union fell, Soviet records showed that they had funneled funds and in-kind support to the Democrats over many years.

ken in tx said...

If they had found that evidence, I think Nixon would have stuck it out and stayed.

Saint Croix said...

Interesting to click on that "Obama is like Nixon" tag.

2010: "We're gonna punish our enemies.".

2013: "Mistakes were made."

2013: "What did the President know and when did he know it?"

2013: Carl Bernstein discusses the evidence.

2014: Calls for a special prosecutor.

The Godfather said...

Back to the Nixon tapes for a minute, I haven't spent 20 years studying the Watergate Impeachment proceedings, so maybe I'm wrong, but the way I remember it (I lived in Washington at the time), by the time the Supreme Court ruled that the tapes had to be released, Nixon was already cooked. I don't think there was any new news in the tapes, just local color (or off-color), and confirmation of stuff we knew already. When Nixon tried to hold onto the tapes (and I don't remember the exact chronology here), not so much was known about his involvement in the cover-up; maybe he could survive. But he probably figured that, if he destroyed the tapes then, that would be perceived as an admission of guilt beyond what the evidence to date established.

Back to Obama: The difference is, Obama kept his fingerprints off the IRS activities (he didn't need to get personally involved, did he?). But, just as Harding's reputation was sullied by Teapot Dome, although he seems to have had no direct involvement, Obama's reputation will be sullied by proof of the IRS's unlawful actions -- so there is some (small) possibility that Obama may get caught in the cover-up.

Michael K said...

"G. Gordon Liddy thinks they were sent in by the nebbish John Dean to protect his (way too hot for him) wife Maureen who was a former prostitute and was best friend with the Madam that procured prostitutes for top DNC donors out of that office."

I would not rule this out but we will never know. Dean certainly worked hard to bring Nixon down. I wonder if he knew Mark Felt ?

Anonymous said...

"Nixon seemed tricky and shifty, unlike Obama, whose lies seem less... lie-like."

Meaning Obama is an accomplished Harvard trained liar.

Jay Vogt said...

Eric Thorson is the Inspector General for Tax Administration at the Tresury Department. I wonder if he's got better stuff to work on.

Unknown said...

Best Business Plan from home, invest as low as $1 and get 10% Daily Profit

Unknown said...

Best Business Plan from home, invest as low as $1 and get 10% Daily Profit

exhelodrvr1 said...

Nixon wasn't completely anti-constitution/laws

pm317 said...

Didn't Nixon say that he was not a crook? I believe him more when he says that than if Obama said it.

Original Mike said...

"Meaning Obama is an accomplished Harvard trained liar."


Moxie D. Hoxie said...

Where I work, there is a similar set up as was described in December of the IRS. However...

If one saves one's emails to one's computer, you fill it up pretty fast. So my employer has another place where you take your emails out of Outlook and save them to. Even my last place of employment did this--we could only leave a limited amount of email on the email server, but they gave us some phase THAT WAS BACKED UP REGULARLY to save them on.

wildswan said...

The NSA has those emails

tim in vermont said...

Well, Nixon did have an election stolen from him in 1960 by the Democrats and the Chicago political mob in particular.

Can't blame him for being a little paranoid.

Now look, Obama drops the first story when Iraq is being overrun and mass beheadings and executions are happening.

Then he picks up some terrorist, whose whereabouts have been known forever, with a big show, on the day the news comes out that six separate computer crashes destroyed the email of key people in the scandal.

This is nothing but a fuck you to America. He knows nobody believes it. He doesn't care, and his supporters are going to have to mad the keyboard ramparts again and defend him.

Original Mike said...

"The NSA has those emails"

Subpoena them. Really.

Michael K said...

"Best Business Plan from home, invest as low as $1 and get 10% Daily Profit"

Nice to see moderation working so well. It's a good thing the internet is huge.

LilyBart said...

Obama, whatever he does, is relentlessly liked.

I wish someone could explain this to me, because I don't find him likable at all. And my view of his relative likability has declined over the last 6 years.

He is thin-skinned, self-referential, he doesn't give any appearance of hard work, he's a liar, he's petty ( I could go one). What is there to *like* about him?

The Godfather said...

What Michael K said.

Although if @Althouse gets a cut, as from Amazon, that's OK by me.

Jim said...

Along with other commenters, I am simply mystified by the claim that Obama is "liked."

His current personal approval rating is at 44%.

“In the past, Obama’s likeability has stayed ahead of perceptions of job performance,” said J. Ann Selzer, founder of Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the June 6-9 poll. “It appears he is no longer likeable enough.”


Keep in mind that even that 44% is buoyed by supporters who - despite whatever personal dislike they have of the man - would never in a million years tell a pollster that simply for political reasons.

Obama's reservoir of goodwill dried up just about the time of 2012 election. He's not even running on fumes at this point. He's in the driver's seat of a car with no gas being pushed over the finish line by Democratic Party loyalists like Reid, Pelosi, etc., for no purpose other than to avoid the 2016 Democratic nominee from being too badly damaged by association with Obama's failures to even have a shot at winning.

Michael The Magnificent said...

The ethics and morals of Richard Nixon, together with the foreign policy and financial incompetence of Jimmy Carter.

Anonymous said...

"Even if Nixon didn't harbor political hopes or believe in "the rule or law" (i.e., judicial supremacy), he still could have turned over the tapes because he loved his country and ..."

Nixon conceded to Kennedy in 1960, even though there seems to have been a lot of "dead voters" in Chicago.
Also, Nixon wasn't part of the break in, only of the coverup (because he thought the buck stops with him?).

I would say that Nixon was an incomparable better person than Obama AND the democrats.

Bruce Hayden said...

Best Business Plan from home, invest as low as $1 and get 10% Daily Profit

Ann - if you are moderating the comments, that was pretty blatant spam. Any make money from home on the Internet is inevitably a scam, and I don't think should be tolerated.

Thanks for listening, and sorry to gripe.

Zach said...

The big difference is that tapes are physical objects. They exist, and there was a direct order to turn them over. Physically destroying them after you have been ordered to turn them over is open defiance, and would result in immediate impeachment.

Lerner's emails are just data. Maybe it exists, maybe it doesn't. Maybe it's on this server, maybe on that one. Without physical access to the archival system, nobody can prove that evidence was destroyed. There's never any crisis moment, where certain actions would trigger an immediate disaster.

jameswhy said...

The one aspect of the Watergate affair that has never been adequately explained is the motivation.

Let's review: it's 1972 and Nixon, while a very polarizing president, was also NOT unpopular, especially with his "Silent Majority." His opponent, George McGovern, was a liberal's liberal and had no chance of winning election. He was a sacrificial lamb and everyone knew it. Nixon was going to cruise to re-election easily.

So what caused him to send the team of burglars in to bug the Dem National Committee offices that night? What information was he trying to get his hands on?

Some years after the events, I met a man who said he had the answer...in fact he said HE was the answer: he claimed he had uncovered the secrets that Nixon was desperate to keep from the American people, because if they knew what my friend knew...And oh by the way, he had visited Larry O'Brien in his office the afternoon before the burglary to give him some of his top secret info on Nixon.

My friend, alas, was a classic conspiracy theorist...living out of the trunk of his car, constantly on the move, trying to stay one step ahead of the Powerful Forces that wanted to shut him down. Woulda made a great book if any of his stuff had been true (there was enough semi-true and slightly plausible to make it interesting, but no smoking gun). It will make a great novel if I ever decide to write it. Send money and I will!

But my friend's theory is the only one I've ever heard that attempts to rationalize the reason behind Watergate. Dick may have been Tricky, but he wasn't batshit crazy...There must have been something that triggered the decision to send in the bumbling burglars on short notice, which is why they got caught.

Maybe the answer was in that 18 minute gap. Maybe there was something in the Dem offices he couldn't have known. But Nixon paranoia and 'just another campaign trick' aren't adequate explanations in the real world.

The Obama affair is much simpler: his administration, if not the President himself, actively sicced the IRS on his political opponents and, caught, the only thing they can think of to do is smash the hard drive.

Good luck with that.

Brando said...

I don't really get why so many people seem to find Obama "likeable" or why his personal approval ratings tended to be better than his job approvals. He seemed to me to be standoffish and cold, with a combination of smug and arrogance that is a real turnoff in people. But someone must see something I don't.

Brando said...

I agree that the entire Watergate story is still baffling forty years later, for three reasons:

1) Nixon was going to crush McGovern in 1972 no matter what--there was no point in which anyone could think the election would be close. So why break into the DNC headquarters? What could possibly be there worth finding (or recording)?

2) Assuming Nixon had nothing to do with the actual break-in--maybe some nutty overzealous low level campaign operative orchestrated it--then why work to cover it up with payoffs and stymieing the investigation? You'd think Nixon wouldn't want to protect some low-level flunky who blatantly broke the law without any higher authorization. You'd think Nixon would even be angry at such insubordination and lawlessness that only reflects bad on the President. So his actions in trying to cover it up seem to imply the burglars had something on him--were they authorized to do the break-in by Nixon after all? Or did they have something else that they could blackmail him with if he didn't get them out of hot water?

3) If Nixon was willing to do so much to cover up the mess, why did he ultimately resign? Sure, it would have continued to hurt his approval ratings and forced Congress to fight out an impeachment battle, but once you already had decided to do an illegal cover-up how much beyond the pale would it be to fight against impeachment, forcing his enemies to find 67 Senators to do the one thing Congress still has never done--remove a President? It's possible that he saw jail time as a possibility if he got removed, and hoped by resigning his replacement--Ford--would pardon him. But there's no guarantee Ford would have done that--even if he'd promised--or that he'd be any more likely to do that after a resignation than he would have after impeachment, removal and conviction.

There's been all sorts of speculation as to these mysteries, but I think with Nixon's death we lost the one person who really could have answered them.

tim in vermont said...

"Physically destroying them after you have been ordered to turn them over is open defiance, and would result in immediate impeachment."

The IRS has already stated that the hard drive was "destroyed" after they "tried" to get the data off of it, at least in the case of Lois Lerner, who took the fifth.

Robert Cook said...

Here's one story that, if true, offers a greater context and motive for the Watergate break ins.

As for why Nixon didn't destroy his tapes, perhaps he believed a full hearing of the tapes would provide to the world and posterity the necessary understanding of the inner workings of his administration such that he would be exonerated of the criticisms made against him. The notion seems ludicrous, given what is on the tapes, but even the worst criminals often believe their actions were justified, and if people only understood, they would be seen as "not really so bad." (I think this is among the reasons why some mass killers leave videos or written testaments describing their reasons for the actions they're about to undertake; they believe "if people only knew," their actions will be understood and...possibly...sympathized with.)

Matt Sablan said...

This administration has serious ethics problems.

Matt Sablan said...

[Granted, the problem extends back to previous administrations as well, but, Obama said he had fixed the problem and had not. So, he owns the problem now.]

Christy said...

"...and Obama, whatever he does, is relentlessly liked."

What people relentlessly like is that their response to the polls proves they are not racists.

Levi Starks said...

You're making this way too complicated....
Nixon had a conscience, which is to say a sense of absolute right and wrong.
Obama on the other hand as a product of post modern academia does not.

tim in vermont said...

After extensive argumentation with Democrat apologists on this matter, I have come to the conclusion that they feel like the targeting of the Tea Party was ironically, IMHO, justified by the Citizen's United ruling.

They also think voter fraud is justified by Bush v Gore.

SDN said...

"Someone will cave, and they will all lack jobs pretty soon. "

After Brandon Eich, they know that if they DO cave, they will lack jobs permanently.

Scott Anderson said...

My side has honor, Ann Althouse. Your side doesn't.

Scott said...

Outing myself as an evil man, I believe that the reason that Obama is 'liked' is both simple and obvious.

He is black

Let me be completely clear...if Obama were white he would be despised (though still probably supported) by even his own partisans. Since he is black, however, too many people don't want to be called racist and thus try to differentiate between his bad actions and his utter lack of character.

The man is a sociopath, without a shred of character of any sort. That he manages to make Richard Nixon look decent by comparison is as damning as it is frightening.

Erik said...

"In some ways the most dangerous kind of politician is a man who is good at PR and nothing else"
writes Paul Johnson in his monumental
History of the American People (1999).

More on Nixon here:


Evidence of Fraud in 2008 Election? A Surprising
Number of Parallels with JFK's 1960 Campaign

As you read the following, remember all the nasty things you have heard through the years about Tricky Dick:

… "[1960's] was a crooked election, especially in Texas and Illinois, two states notorious for fraud, and both of which Kennedy won…

"If Nixon, instead of Kennedy, had carried Texas and Illinois, the shift in electoral votes would have given him the presidency, and the evidence of electoral fraud makes it clear that Kennedy's overall 112,803 vote plurality was a myth: Nixon probably won overall by about 250,000 votes. Evidence of fraud in the two states was so blatant that a number of senior figures, including Eisenhower, urged Nixon to make a formal legal challenge to the result. But Nixon declined. … A legal challenge … would have produced a 'constitutional nightmare' and worked heavily against the national interest. …"

jms said...

What really destroyed Nixon was the revelation of his character -- that he was a vindictive, petty, ugly man when he thought no one was listening. I suspect the same is true of the emails. They stand to reveal the character of Obama and his administration officials -- they way they talk among themselves when they think that no one is listening. And who wants to bet that this crew is orders of magnitude more vicious and ugly in their private email as Nixon ever was on his tapes.

Moneyrunner said...

JMS, I lived through Watergate and your analysis is off. No one really "liked" Nixon, not even the people who voted for him, because he was not a conventionally likeable man. He was stiff and not very telegenic. But, he was very competent and he represented the mainstream of America just at a time when the Democrats were morphing into the kind of crazed Leftists that now inhabit academia and the Obama Administration.

Keep in mind that he opened the door to China, which may have been one of the two biggest geopolitical triumphs of the 20th Century (the other being Reagan’s destruction of the Soviet Union).

There’s really not much that’s hard to understand about Obama and his minions. They are snarky sophomores with the kind of wit that is admired on college campuses and in MSM newsrooms. I give you our hostess as exhibit A.

Regarding Obama personally, We really don't have to choose between evil and stupid. It's a false choice. Obama was raised by communists and there is no reason to believe he has changed his political orientation. By the same token there is no reason to assume he's smart. If he is, we would be able to see his college grades and transcripts. Instead his supporters point to his having attended Harvard and elected President of the Harvard Law Review where he did not write a single paper. There is reason to believe he’s got the support of some smart but very unscrupulous people who got him to where he is.

Robert Cook said...

"Obama was raised by communists and there is no reason to believe he has changed his political orientation."

There's no reason to believe Obama is or ever was a communist, so why would there be any reason to believe he "changed his political orientation?" Obama has been an assiduous servant to the oligarchs and no friend to the people.

Just like his predecessors.