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V

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

ALSO BY THE AUTHOR 85 Days:

The

The

Last

Campaign of Robert Kennedy

Resurrection of Richard Nixon

White Knight: The Rise of Spiro Agnew

A Heartbeat Away: The Investigation and Vice President Spiro T.

Agnew

Resignation of

(with Richard

M. Cohen)

Marathon: The Pursuit of the Presidency, 1 972-1 976

The Main Chance Blue

Smoke and

Mirrors:

(a

novel)

How Reagan Won and

Why Carter Lost the Election of 1980 Wake Us When

It's

(with ]ac\ W.

Germond)

Over:

Presidental Politics of 1984 (with Germond)

Sabotage

at

Imperial Germany's Secret

Whose Broad The

Black Tom:

War

Stripes

in

America, 1914-1977

and Bright

Stars?:

Trivial Pursuit of the Presidency, 1988 (with

Germond)

Crapshoot: Rolling the Dice on the Vice Presidency

Mad As

Hell: Revolt at the Ballot Box, 1992 (with

The Year

the

Dream

Died: Revisiting 1968 in America

No Way to Pick a

How Money and

Germond)

President:

Hired Guns have Debased American Elections

Party of the People:

A History of the Democrats

The Making of an Ink-Stained Wretch: Half a Century Pounding the

Political

Beat

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS The Short and Unhappy Marriage of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew

JULES WITCOVER

PublicAffairs

New Yor{

——

1

©

Copyright

From The Memoirs of Richard Nixon

2007 by Jules Witcover

— Volume

1

by Richard M. Nixon. Copyright

©

1978

by Richard Nixon. By permission of Warner Books.

From Go

Quietly.

.

.

.

Or Else by Spiro

T.

Agnew. Copyright

©

1980 by Spiro T. Agnew.

Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

From The Haldeman Trust.

H. R. Haldeman. Copyright

Diaries by

Used by permission of G.

From

Witness to Power:

P.

©

The Haldeman Family

1994 by

Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Group (USA)

The Nixon Years by John Ehrlichman. Copyright

©

Inc.

1982.

By permission of the Estate of John Ehrlichman.

From

How America Changed the World by Alexander © 1992. By permission of Warner Books.

Inner Circles:

M. Haig,

Jr.

Copyright

Published in the United States by Public Affairs ™, a

member

of the Perseus Books Group.

All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America.

No part of this

book may be reproduced

any manner whatsoever without written permission

in

except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information,

address PublicAffairs, 250 West 57th Street, Suite 1321,

New York, NY

10107.

Public Affairs books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the U.S. by corporations, institutions,

and other organizations. For more information, please contact the Special

markets Department 02142,

at the

call (617)

Perseus Books Group,

Cambridge Center, Cambridge,

1 1

MA

252-5298, or email [email protected]

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Witcover,

Very strange bedfellows

Jules.

the short

:

Richard Nixon and Spiro

and unhappy marriage of

Agnew / Jules p.

Witcover.



1st ed.

cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN-13: 978-1-58648-470-5 (hardcover) ISBN-10: 1-58648-470-2 (hardcover) 1.

Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994.

2.

Agnew, Spiro T, 1918-1996. 3. Nixon, 4. Agnew, Spiro T, 1918-1996

Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994— Psychology. Psychology.

5.

Presidents

Biography.

7.

—United

United States

States



— Biography.

Politics

6.

E856.W57 2007 973.924092-2—dc22 2007000950 First Edition

1098765432

—United — 1969-1974.

Vice-Presidents

and government

I.

States

Title.

John and Sara

Digitized by the Internet Archive in

2014

https://archive.org/details/verystrangebedfeOOwitc

CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

ix

Introduction

xiii

1

Snared on the Rebound

2

Spiro

3

Nixon's Nixon

JJ

4

Great Expectations

53

5

Arousing the Silent Majority

73

6

Hot-and-Cold Honeymoon

85

7

Big

8

Purge of the Radic-Libs

in

9

Marriage of Convenience

I

10

Thinking the Unthinkable

J 43

11

Bull in a

i

i

n

Who?

Man on Campus

China Shop

95

.

31

163

12

Anywhere but Peking

H5

13

Courting Connally

187

14

Welcome Home, Ted

i9

15

Plotting the Big Switch

20J

y

Contents

viii

16

Separation Anxiety

225

17

From Watergate

241

18

Bad News from Baltimore

257

19

Lapsing Insurance Policy

275

20

Contested Divorce

29/

21

Terms of Disengagement

^09

22

Parting of the

23

Frigid Aftermath

34J

Notes

367

Z? / £ liogra

Index

phy

to Re-election

Ways

323

391 j 95

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

JVIoST OF THE BEST PERSONAL SOURCES FOR THE STORY OF THE CONtentious relationship between President Richard

ident Spiro T.

Agnew, including

eternal rewards.

They have

left

tenants,

two

M. Nixon and Vice

principals,

have passed

Pres-

to their

behind, however, a rare and in some cases

unprecedented record on which dition to the

the

this

account has been constructed. In ad-

memoirs of Nixon and Agnew, books by Nixon's chief lieu-

H. R. "Bob" Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and others

revealingly chronicled that bizarre partnership.

Most enlightening of all, however, were the Nixon White House

tapes,

available at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, prior to

shipping to the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library at the former president's birthplace in

the archives

staff.

Yorba Linda, California, now administered by

While the tapes have been

principally scrutinized in

documenting the Watergate scandal and cover-up

that led to Nixon's res-

ignation in August 1974, they also include a host of largely overlooked

conversations dealing with the

Nixon-Agnew

political

marriage and

ul-

timate divorce.

The

principal archivist of this collection at College Park,

was indispensible

in introducing

me

to the research task,

Sam

Rashay,

and serving

as a

continuing guide to the most fruitful tapes and documents throughout the process. Because

some of the

tapes, particularly those recorded in

Nixon's hideaway in the Executive Office Building, were of poor quality, I

did

my

best to reconstruct the exact conversations with the diligent as-

sistance of

my

wife,

Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, whose acute sense of IX

Acknowledgments

\

my own. When

hearing eclipses

mined,

I

the precise

words could not be deter-

have paraphrased and so indicated, or edited out the garble and

noted omissions, often irrelevant to

this story,

nately, the tapes cover only the period

from February

with

White House aide Alexander

tergate hearings

In the

Room

White House

was

Butterfield at the Senate

Wa-

J.

Hughes

Jr.,

a

Nixon

me to some specific tapes in the same regard. to the tapes, and much additional information on the

The Haldeman

Diaries: Inside the

CD-ROM of expanded companions

for permission to

P.

Putman's Sons,

diary material by the

in the search.

draw

Nixon White House, by H. R.

New

same

York, 1994, and a

publisher,

indis-

extensively on them.

Washington throughout

was able

were

thank the Haldeman Family Trust

I

Having covered Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew

I

University of

at the

scholar, pointed

Haldeman, published by G.

of them,

its

on matters touching on

assistance

Kenneth

relationship. Also,

As further guides

pensible

the tap-

College Park, the depository for Agnew's papers, archivist

in

Nixon-Agnew

subject,

when

existence

of the Hornbake Library

Lauren Brown was of notable additional the

Unfortu-

and promptly discontinued.

Maryland

Maryland

1971,

when

ing system was installed, through July 16, 1973, disclosed by

ellipses.

their tenures,

to call

on

my own

as a reporter in

and having written books on each research and interviews conducted

with both principals during that time. Just as important was the thorough

and invaluable reporting, especially

Cohen,

my

in

Maryland, done by Richard M.

Washington Post colleague and friend, in the course of co-

writing our 1974 book on the investigation of Agnew that led to his resignation in October 1973. Also, Nixon's

own memoir and

that of his second

White House chief of staff, General Alexander Haig, provided

inside ac-

counts of Nixon's machinations to bring about Agnew's departure from the line of presidential succession,

amid the Watergate scandal and Ag-

new's desperate efforts to save himself. All these materials also failed

Agnew

attempt to replace

nally, object

document Nixon's

with former Texas governor John Con-

of his great admiration,

potential successor in the

first as

vice president

and then

as a

Oval Office.

Interviews with important

and leading Republican

relentless but ultimately

members of

political figures

interpretations to the written

the

Nixon and Agnew

added personal

and recorded

history.

staffs

recollections

and

Those who generously

Acknowledgments

XI

Lamar Alexander,

agreed to interviews included

Patrick Buchanan,

Alexander Butterfield, John Dean, Alexander Haig, Melvin Laird, John Sears, tor

and William Timmons of the Nixon

nik,

Tim

Agnew

prosecutors in Baltimore

Baker, and Ronald

Liebman

terview in 2006, as did Richard

and John Damgard, Vic-

Ward of the Agnew staff.

Gold, David Keene, and C. D.

principal

staff,

—George

Beall,

—each granted me

Also, the four

Barney Skol-

a telephone in-

Darman, one of Attorney General

Richardson's chief aides during the investigation.

I

drew

as well

on

Elliot

my

in-

terviews for previous books with then governor Nelson A. Rockefeller of

New

York and George Hinman,

low reporters on the campaign

his chief political adviser,

most helpful accounts of the Watergate

my

phy. Finally,

and many

fel-

of that period. In addition, several

trail

affair are listed in the bibliogra-

thanks go to Peter Osnos, Robert Kimzey, and Clive

Priddle, of PublicAffairs; to

my

William Whitworth; and

editor,

to

my

longtime agent, David Black, for their encouragement and professional-

ism in guiding

this project to

completion.

Long after the resignations of Nixon and Agnew, the periodic release of the White House tapes was amusingly and accurately described by my friend Watergate sleuth Bob Woodward of The Washington Post as, in the Hallmark greeting card motto, "The gift that keeps on giving." That was certainly true of the Watergate story, but also of the Nixon-Agnew saga, as the reader will find in these pages. Reporters, historians,

often say they wish they could have been a

The

vate event or during a certain period.

fly

at a certain pri-

existence of these tapes enabled

me

to be just that, listening to first-person connivings

the

Nixon-Agnew

and observations of

administration, one of the most immoral and corrupt

of the United States.

in the history

and other writers

on the wall

Its

players endlessly carped

and plotted

not only against political foes but at times against each other as well.

When

the

White House

tapes

were

scandal, Nixon's use of profanity

first

was

a

released during the Watergate

shocking revelation, though

merely of a good-ol' boy variety that never sank

to the level

locker-room banter. More jolting to the ear listening ness,

and the

scheme

to

duplicity, of a president

and

his chief

shape public opinion, dominate the

mately depose one of their

own who

now

is

of men's

the callous-

henchmen

political scene,

as they

and

ulti-

has fallen from grace.

Because the tapes proved to be so self-destructive to the principals, future journalists

and historians may never have

a similar

opportunity to

Acknowledgments

XI

examine and explore the hearts and souls of tomorrow's presidencies. So

we can Nixon tem

be grateful for these recordings, and not the least to Richard

himself, for his eventually hapless decision to install the taping sys-

that

was

his

own

undoing, and that informs us as well of new details

of Agnew's torment and demise.

Jules Witcover Washington, D.C.

September

4,

2006

INTRODUCTION

In the

spring of 1971, in the third year of the political marriage of Richard M. Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew, a phone call came from the White House dent. that

to

John Damgard, a young aide

to the vice presi-

David Parker, President Nixon's scheduler, informed Damgard

Nixon

didn't

want

Washington

roast of

and wanted

Agnew

to attend that year's

politicians by the to

fill

in for

him.

Gridiron dinner, the annual

White House

Damgard

press corps' elite,

dutifully conveyed the

message. "If the president wants

Damgard the

later recalled

phone and ask me.

to

do

it

to

do

it,

on the

I've

to substitute for telling

him,

"all

him

called

Word was

who informed

is

pick

up

never said no to him before, but I'm not going

your asking

me

to

do

it.

If the president

wants

me

Parker back and relayed what the vice president had

passed to H. R. "Bob" Haldeman, Nixon's chief of

all costs,

Nixon

instructed

Haldeman

message again. The same reply came back from

Damgard.

It

staff,

the president. Exasperated but always avoiding personal

confrontation at

went on

like that,

"For whatever reason," pick

at the dinner,"

he has to do

that's different."

Damgard said.

basis of

me

Agnew's

back and

Damgard

up the phone and ask Agnew

to

send the same

Agnew

through

forth.

recounted

do

to

it,

and

later,

this

"Nixon would not

stalemate existed for

The dinner sponsors would call, saying they wanted to put Agnew's name down in the program 'because we understand from the

days and days.

White House

that

Agnew's going

to substitute for the president.'

And

I

XIII

a

Introduction

XIV

told

me

them,

can't

'I

that, so far,

tell

you

to

down Agnew's name

put

he has no intention of doing

because he has told

it.'"

More days passed, and finally one afternoon, as Agnew was reviewing some policy paper or other in his office, a uniformed military attache from the White House appeared with an envelope he had been instructed Admitted

to deliver personally to the vice president only.

to the presence,

he handed over the envelope. Inside was a handwritten note from Nixon. It said, as

Damgard

"Dear Ted.

best recalled later:

would very much ap-

I

preciate your presence at this year's Gridiron dinner.

so

Agnew went. Damgard said

later: "I

made

Thanks, Dick." And

the mistake of saying to

Agnew, 'The

president doesn't want to go and wants you to substitute for him.' After that,

worked

I

want Agnew

very, very

to

hard to find out

do and then, without

invitation in such a

manner

in

telling

advance what Nixon would

Agnew,

Agnew would

that

accept

would present

I

it

on the

the

basis of

its

And I never again said, 'The president wants you to do this.'" Agnew As himself recounted the awkward episode later in his memoir, 1

merits.

he

finally relented only after

"very unusual" occurrence.

of subjects,"

Agnew

Nixon had phoned him on

"We

recalled.

Sunday

a



chatted for about ten minutes on a variety

"He

what

closed by mentioning

a great job

one of the cabinet had done on Meet the Press that day. Then he paused a

moment and said

it

continued about

certainly was,

how

and that ended our conversation."

ternoon, the vice president remembered, letter from the president.

With charming

tend the Gridiron dinner, allowing that

than Ike had

went

TV was. He paused again.

important

"when

would be

demanded of him. He promised

to the dinner. Unnaturally,

Then Agnew

wrote:

"I really

I

had

a

handwritten

he requested

me

a sacrifice but

go next

to

a

af-

to at-

no more

year. Naturally,

I

marvelous time."

would have enjoyed serving

Lyndon Johnson, because

presidency with

was the next

was given

I

simplicity, it

It

I

in the vice

anything had gone wrong,

if

probably he himself would have picked up the phone and said, 'Agnew,

what the

hell are

problem.

Come

nately,

I

you doing?' Or he would have over here.

I

want

to talk to

said, 'I've got a hell

you about

this.'

of a

Unfortu-

could have no such man-to-man talk with President Nixon. Ab-

solutely none.

I

was never allowed

with him directly

in

to

come

any decision. Every time

a subject for discussion,

he would begin a

close I

enough

went

to see

to participate

him and

raised

rambling, time-consuming

xv

Introduction

monologue. Then

come

in,

phone would ring or Haldeman would

finally the

and there would be no time

what

left for

I

had come

really

to

He successfully avoided any subject he didn't want to be down on. He preferred keeping his decision-making within a

talk about.

pinned

very small group.

The

I

was not of the inner

if

2

rather sophomoric waltz over attending the 1971 Gridiron dinner,

between the leader of the

him

circle."

free

world and the

man who would

succeed

destiny dictated, said volumes about the personal and professional

relationship between them.

And

it

hinted at

why

a partnership that

had

begun with high mutual admiration eventually crumbled

in bitter resent-

ment and mutual

men

The litical

in

dislike,

separate paths

and the

political

Nixon and Agnew took

it

flourished at

time disintegrated, provides the framework of this book.

styles, egos,

and temperaments, which

American

political history

whom

Those Americans who did not

that partnership

tively fostered

a story

of

outlooks but clashing

end produced the only case

he served.

live

through the nearly five-year

young to remember, are not contentious and divisive environment in

was born, and how together the partners

and cultivated

it.

Their

rise to

time of uncommon unrest in the country, only nation of John

but

partnership, or were too

likely to appreciate fully the

which

It is

first

of back-to-back political suicides of a vice

president and the president under

Nixon-Agnew

political

in the

as well.

to their relationship as po-

and personal strange bedfellows, and how

two men's common backgrounds and in

demise of both

F.

national

effec-

power came

at a

five years after the assassi-

Kennedy, which had shaken the American people and

the Democratic Party.

A year later, the Republican Party as well was shat-

tered with the landslide defeat of presidential

nominee Barry Goldwater.

Lyndon Johnson, spurred at first by legthe face of the mounting protests against

Thereafter, the Great Society of islative

the

triumphs, sputtered in

Vietnam War and Republican

The

allegations of over-reaching at

home.

movement was also splintering, as many whites recoiled from the militancy of new black leaders switching from the fruitful pursuit of legal and social justice to abrasive and inflammatory demands for civil rights

equal economic opportunity.

The

turmoil in America in the presidential election year of 1968, ger-

minated by the war tural revolution,

in

and

Vietnam, the

civil rights

struggle at

a generational rebellion in the streets,

home,

a cul-

provided an

Introduction

XVI

ideal

atmosphere for the Nixon- Agnew mantra of law and order.

a year

marked by two more

jolting tragedies,

sassination of Dr. Martin Luther

Memphis

King

it

F.

Kennedy on

California Democratic presidential primary, disbelief,

came

Chicago,

weeks

the night he

befall

Democratic Convention two months

when marching

protesters

were clubbed

it

next.

the

won

the

The answer

in a police riot that its

of

un-

hapless standard-

Humphrey.

All this

fodder for the Nixon— Agnew domestic war on the war in the

With American campuses

later,

later in the streets

derscored the disarray of the Democratic Party and

bearer by default, Vice President Hubert H.

in

the nation in shocked

left

wondering what catastrophe would

at the

in as-

during an economic boycott

Jr.

ignited race riots across urban America. Six

gunning down of Senator Robert

And

proved decisive. The

was

streets.

across the nation also in noisy revolt over the

disruptions and inequities of the draft and the war, and with the

dema-

gogic rhetoric of Alabama's Governor George Wallace adding racist fuel to the flames, the stage

Nixon and

was

set for the political

the emergence of Spiro

Agnew

as

comeback of Richard

twin preachers of the

of repression, under the guise of patriotism. Four decades

later,

politics

echoes of

phenomenon reverberated in the tandem chorus of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney trumpeting another senseless war, and the expansion of executive power in its pursuit. the

In the course of the

Nixon-Agnew

effort to play

and prejudices, the 1968 campaign launched of liberalism and the American news media. fort

on the

a destructive

nation's fears

demonization

Not long afterward,

that ef-

nurtured in turn a resurrection of the conservatism that had seemed

buried in the ashes of the 1964 Goldwater debacle. vival flowered in the election of

And

by 1980, the re-

Ronald Reagan and the era of neoconser-

vative Republicanism that followed.

Well before that happened, however, Nixon was able self as a feller

on the Republican

dency essentially

his trouble

left

and Reagan on the

never had a firm hold on Nixon. to get

new who emerged it

him-

moderate, in part because of the very presence of Nelson Rocke-

political ideology

see,

to position

right. In

He

sought the presi-

power, and then to keep and extend

as the ideologue,

and

that fact

within the administration. But

was the newcomer's

talent for

pure

any event,

it.

It

was Ag-

became an element

in

at the outset, as the reader will

political hatchetry that first en-

Introduction

deared him to his superior, ing

who saw him

XVII

as a fitting stand-in

on the

fir-

line.

Years

Nixon had

earlier,

set the pattern, as a slashing partisan

House of Representatives and then

election first to the

who won

to the Senate as a

Red-baiting character assassin against his Democratic opponents.

He had

continued in the same vein as Dwight D. Eisenhower's running mate in 1952 and 1956. His description of Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson as "Adlai the appeaser son's College of easily

As his

.

.

.

who

Cowardly Containment"

got a

PhD

from Dean Ache-

low bar that

set a

Agnew

later

and repeatedly lowered,

in the 1968

campaign and beyond.

Nixon sought

to seize the

Eisenhower high road, leaving

president,

new companion

however,

Agnew

were more than

soon a

As

to tread the low as Nixon's Nixon. stole the spotlight

match

with language and

for the old master.

And

vitriol that

Vietnam War

as the

dragged on, Agnew's resentment grew over playing fiddle in policy-making,

vice president,

back-row second

a

and the partnership began

to unravel.

The

cheerful helpmate was turning into a whining malcontent, with the relationship spiraling

down

In that outcome, both nation's

to the ultimate crash.

Nixon and Agnew assigned heavy blame

news media. Nixon's

position

came out of a long

to the

history of per-

ceived press hostility that had been well earned. Agnew's on the other

hand was more as foils in his

Agnew

tactic,

in

which he used commentators

exploited public cynicism and resentment toward

and closed

The newsmen may

utives were,

The

manner

argument of news media run amok. Together, Nixon and

liked to call "a tiny

one."

seen in the

and an

air

fraternity of privileged

no

many newsrooms. and much of the working

arm) had never been particularly

Nixon and Agnew

versarial one, laden with suspicion

Accordingly, the

elected by

of intimidation wafted through

press (as opposed to the managerial to

what Agnew

not have been unnerved but the television exec-

relationship between the Republican Party

warm. But thanks

men

it

on both

turned increasingly to an adsides.

drama of the Nixon-Agnew partnership gone wrong

played out in an ugly time of public anger and social and racial conflict.

seemed

to

magnify Americans'

cal leadership

toiled in a

and

distrust in,

politics itself.

The

and even contempt

It

for, politi-

daily chroniclers of the saga thus

poisoned atmosphere that only compounded the divisions in

Introduction

XVIII

the land, and often bred a vited

more

attacks

Notably,

it

more sharply combative journalism

that in-

from Nixon and Agnew.

was not the

falling out

between Nixon and

Agnew

that

eventually ended their partnership; unrelated events were responsible.

Even

so,

the mutual mistrust and dissatisfaction that developed between

them underscored sonal,

the imperative of compatibility, both political

and per-

between running mates.

What

follows

is

decision to choose

an account of what happened leading up to Nixon's

Agnew

the ticket a second time

as his

—and

running mate and then

to

the unexpected aftermath.

keep him on

As

a result of

Nixon's decision, two very strange bedfellows headed the country for nearly five tumultuous and ultimately regrettable years in a disgraced partnership.

It is

a cautionary tale, but also a revealing look, thanks to the

Nixon White House taping system and the candor of the participants, into the raw business of political and policy decision-making with the

window

shades

down



but, fortunately for us, with the tape running.

Chapter

i

SNARED ON THE REBOUND

Richard M. Nixon was not the Republican leader whom Governor Spiro

T.

Agnew

of Maryland originally wanted to see elected

president in 1968. Rather, he hoped through a coalition of fellow gover-

nors to put Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York in the White House.

new knew

Albany, not to seek the presidency again after losing the to

Ag-

of Rockefeller's promise in 1965, in seeking a third term in

Barry Goldwater in 1964. But he

set

GOP nomination

out in 1967 to change the

New

Yorker's mind.

As

early as 1965,

ecutive, he

had

when Agnew was

cast his eye

in his 1962 bid for the

Agnew as a

like

many

other Republicans

nominee again. Ormsby "Dutch"

remembered that after the "Ted wanted to be in there back-

political aide at the time,

conservative Goldwater's 1964 debacle, ing a liberal

ex-

on Rockefeller. In the wake of Nixon's defeat

had pretty much dismissed Nixon

Agnew

County

governorship of California, coming on the heels of

his loss for the presidency in 1960,

Moore, an

the elected Baltimore

who had

a

chance of winning," and his clear preference was

Rockefeller. Nevertheless,

Moore

recalled,

out Nixon on his political plans, though he

Agnew also tried to sound did not know the man at all.

"He wrote him about November [of 1965] and didn't get an answer until maybe January or February," Moore said. "This was when Nixon was in his law firm [in New York]. I can remember Ted yet, saying, 'That

i

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

2

damn Xixon, elected.'"

he won't even answer your

Xo wonder

letters.

he can't get

1

My own

personal connection with

Xixon began around

a similar experience after having observed

him from

this time,

a distance for

with

more

than a decade as a regional reporter covering Congress for a group of

When

small newspapers.

feats for the presidency in 1960

a

Republican comeback

week with him

His press secretary

didates.

Buchanan,

and

whom

for

at the

time was a young fellow

had known when he was an

I

Washington

Buchanan introduced me

to X'ixon at

full

named

Patrick

shared a microphone in

later

our hotel

man was

spent a

Crossfire

show.

When

in Detroit the night be-

friendly but warily distant

from

start.

Day

after day,

rode with Buchanan and X'ixon

I

president's car as a silent but watchful

and

I

in 1962, led

I

editorial writer for the

tame radio forerunner of the

in a

fore the tour began, the great

the

whom

his de-

on behalf of GOP can-

in several states

Louis Globe—Democrat and with

St.

governor of California

1966 congressional elections,

in the

he campaigned

as

from

private citizen X'ixon, recovering

political

man

cians, at private

at

work

former vice

companion, observing the personal

in conversations

meetings and

in the

at rallies.

with aides and local

He was

a

politi-

twice-beaten candidate

himself but as a former vice president and presidential nominee he maintained a distinct luster within the party family that arrival

wherever

low Republicans

his schedule as

took him.

them

time was his strategy to resurrect his

X'ixon's dislike

a

welcome

relentlessly cordial to fel-

he dispensed wisdom to candidates and their man-

agers, while methodically placing this

He was

made him

debt for what by

in his political

own

electoral fortunes.

and suspicion of the press and

his

discomfort in the

members was well known, but he treated me with uncommon courtesy through our week together. He regarded me with an uneasy eye as I observed him morning to night, trying to take a reading on presence of its

his rare

combination of outward confidence and painstakingly obvious

awkwardness and

self-doubt.

He bent over backward

to

sound genial and

approachable toward the press, but there always was that guarded sense that he

saw us

as the

enemy.

takeoff, he held the plane

When

I

told

On

when

I

was

late for a

and graciously brushed aside

my

apology.

Congressman Pat

one leg of that

trip,

Hillings, another

Xixon intimate on the

Snared on the Rebound

trip,

about

it,

he laughed. "The

rest

3

of us wanted to take off without you,"

he told me, "but he said, 'No, he's the only reporter we've got!'" In that 1966 campaign,

Nixon did indeed begin

to restore his credibility

within the Republican Party. Two-thirds of the sixty-six for

whom

House and

GOP

he spoke won, as the

House candidates

picked up forty-seven seats in the

three in the Senate. Late in the

campaign President Lyndon

B.

Johnson unwittingly helped Nixon by attacking him for criticizing the administration's

ward

war

policy "in the

hope he can pick up a precinct or two or a

or two," thereby spotlighting

ter the election, in

an interview in

me: "There was a big swing vote

swing that way.

...

I

him

as the leader

of the opposition. Af-

Park Avenue apartment, Nixon

his

in the last days. Johnson's attack

couldn't believe

it.

was too good

It

to be true.

told

made it You .

.

.

never build up a major spokesman on the other side."

Other Republicans were impressed, but apparently not Spiro Agnew.

He

began talking up fellow-governor Rockefeller for president with

col-

who had little use for 1967, Agnew announced he

leagues like Governor James Rhodes of Ohio,

Nixon. At the Yale Republican Club

in April

intended to cajole Rockefeller into running one more time as the darling of the

GOP governors.

Even thrown

as Rockefeller in

Romney

still

with another

of Michigan,

coveted the presidency, he had conspicuously

GOP member

who had

just

won

of the governor's club, George second term.

solid reelection to a

Furthermore, Rockefeller's commitment had financial heft behind

much

as $400,000,

Romney,

according to some reports.

a straight-arrow

forestalled the

He

had no

moderate alternative Yale,

illusions

former head of American Motors

little political



as

about

who had

experience, and none in foreign pol-

But Rockefeller despised Nixon, and he saw Romney

At

it

company's eventual death and moved into the governor's

chair in Lansing with icy.

2

to the

shopworn but

Agnew, himself then regarded

he had nothing against Romney, "but

it

impressed with Governor Rockefeller.

now." Asked about the

ought

to get in

riage,

which had hurt

three years earlier,

his

so I

as

an acceptable

still

opportunistic Californian.

as a

moderate Republican, said

happens that I'm tremendously

think that

New

if

he wants to run, he

Yorker's divorce and remar-

chances for the nomination against Goldwater

Agnew

said

it

"will not

have any

Rockefeller's strong reelection for a third term in

affect,"

Albany

and he

as proof.

3

cited

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

4

Agnew was

not alone in pursuing Rockefeller.

Tom McCall, the liberal

won

the Republican primary

governor of Oregon, where Rockefeller had

shared Governor Rhodes's low opinion of Nixon, and he sent a

in 1964,

letter to fellow

governors urging them to delay endorsing anyone until

they could act as a group. script calling

"I'm out of

on him

it.

.

.

.

who

Any move

to

added

the copy to Rockefeller he

make himself available. But

we moderates want

If

ing a candidate ney.

to

On

to preserve

a post-

Rockefeller replied:

any chance of nominat-

Rom-

can win, we'd better stay behind George

undercut him or proliferate the moderate support

my He

or even to consult with a view to looking to other candidates will, in

humble opinion, simply

deliver the nomination to the other side."

didn't have to spell out that to

both

Agnew and

stances will

But

I

McCall:

run."

"I

him

am

was Nixon. So he

"the other side"

not a candidate, and under no circum-

4

Agnew was

dazzled by the way the energetic Rockefeller domi-

nated governors' conferences, with charts and papers on his

on getting things done feeling

told

He was

at the state level.

not deterred.

Governor Rockefeller could be persuaded

Agnew

evidence of a wave in his direction,"

latest ideas

if

there

is

"I

have a

substantial

said to reporters.

But

if

Rockefeller would not budge, he added, "I would be rather foolish to

To

continue."

find out once

shortly afterward in his utes. Rockefeller

to

am

"I

for

Manhattan

turned him

awaiting reporters:

and

down

all,

office, fiat.

disappointed.

Agnew

called

and they talked

on

feel a

quarry

for ninety

When Agnew came I

his

min-

out, he told

tremendous sense of need

have a candidate of the Rockefeller type." Without naming Nixon, 5

Agnew's comment was

During firm, the

this time,

a clear slap at the former vice president.

though Rockefeller's support of Romney remained

Michigan governor's candidacy was going nowhere. Once,

interview,

when

I

asked Rockefeller what he would do

if

in

an

Romney's cam-

paign tanked, he replied with some irritation: "I'm just not going to

knock myself out thinking about

it."

Asked why

his

surface as a candidate for the nomination, he said:

know is these people weren't speaking when I was working like hell for it."

know. All [in 1964]

I

name continued "I'll

that

be darned

way

to

if I

the last time

6

Romney's lack of foreign policy experience was coming through

in

an

inability to express a consistent position on the Vietnam War, whose con-

duct by Lyndon Johnson was emerging as a likely central issue in the ap-

Snared on the Rebound

5

proaching 1968 presidential campaign. In August of 1967, on a radio terview in Detroit,

He

nam.

Romney was asked about

blurted out that on a recent

visit

his inconsistency

corps. "I

on Viet-

there "I just had the greatest

brainwashing that anybody can get when you go over

American generals and diplomatic

in-

Vietnam" by the

to

no longer believe that

necessary for us to get involved in South Vietnam to stop

it

was

Communist

ag-

gression," he said.

The "brainwashing" remark ing ship.

As

put the final torpedo in an already sink-

often happens in politics, the

impression that the well-meaning

Democratic senator Eugene

dent.

comment

Romney was }.

crystallized a public

not up to the job of presi-

McCarthy of Minnesota, soon

to en-

1968 race against Johnson, captured the prevailing ridicule by

ter the

observing of the "brainwashing" confession: light rinse

would have done

dacy started up again as a

it."

"I

would have thought

a

Speculation about a Rockefeller candi-

result,

and Agnew's hopes

for

it

were rekin-

dled, despite Rockefeller's continued dismissal of the possibility.

At

a series of governors' conferences,

Asheville, feller for

mother of

fall,

all political

plugged away. At an

a unity ticket of

Rocke-

cover, generating talk of a clarity,

even

as the

magazine put the two Republicans on

"dream

Germond

ticket."

its

Agnew's own dream took on

responded on deck by

as Rockefeller

other reporter, Jack

governors of both parties engaged in

junkets, a cruise to the Virgin Islands aboard

the S.S. Independence, Time

new

still

president and freshman governor of California Ronald Reagan

for vice president. In the

the

Agnew

North Carolina, meeting, he proposed

telling

me and

a

an-

of the Gannett Newspapers, not only that

"I'm not a candidate" and "I'm not going to be a candidate," but also for the

first

time

—twice—

Elsewhere on the

that "I don't

ship,

want

to be president."

when word of Rockefeller's

latest,

avowal reached Agnew, he responded: "That's pretty say if he's drafted a

genuine

tives

it

would take

draft. Indeed,

I

a pretty

definite.

emphatic individual

can't conceive of it."

To

strongest dis-

But

to turn

I

still

down

the ears of Nixon opera-

aboard, however, the words were a signal to intensify their efforts to

recruit other governors

Nixon

effort.

weeks

later,

Agnew

At

and stem any thought of a bloc forming

yet another governors' conference, in

two Nixon

political aides,

they were aware he was

would be

the nominee.

They

still

Palm Beach

Bob Ellsworth and John

for Rockefeller, but

said the

a stop-

a

few

Sears, told

were sure Nixon

Nixon camp wanted

to

remain on

6

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

friendly terms with

him

them he had nothing

in the interest

against

the nomination. But at the

of a unified party.

Nixon and would support him

Agnew if

Agnew and McCall and whispered: "Boys, one together for Rockefeller." So Agnew pressed on. In January of the new election year, Agnew announced a

let's

put

that he

this

was

"Draft Rockefeller" organization in Maryland in the hope

would spread

across the country.

surprise decision of

against

he did get

same Palm Beach conference, Ohio's Rhodes

linked arms with

forming

told

Nixon

A few weeks later, he was buoyed by the

Romney, confronted by humiliating

in the

it

New

impending

presidential race. Nixon, counting

on

polling

Hampshire primary,

numbers

to quit the

on primary day,

a landslide victory

suspected a plot to bring Rockefeller into the campaign against him, but

Rockefeller was just as surprised as the

with his would-be candidate again in said he

would run, according

to

New

heartened

who

York,

r

Agnew,

A

rest.

"if there

is

a

Agnew met

for the first time

broad base of sup-

port for him." But Rockefeller told him, he said, he didn't

want

run

to

simply as a stop-Nixon vehicle, though that certainly was in his mind.

Agnew had met Nixon lican ciate,

women's reception Maryland

for the first time only

in

weeks

New York, arranged by a mutual political assoLouise Gore. At a private gathering

state senator

Agnew

apartment afterward, they had an amiable chat and

Nixon

that his pro-Rockefeller efforts

anti-Nixon.

up the

The

other's

were

thought from.

.

we were

speak out more. He's got a

in the

room.

to

8

lot to say.'" It

out to be a prophecy. After

pointedly told

no way meant

was almost

her

at

to be seen as

one picked

as if

the other; they were so engrossed in each

.

the elevator, he told me, 'Your governor

York again

in

hostess recalled later that "it

other that they forgot

Repub-

before, at a

When

walked Mr. Nixon

I

to

—your governor — make him

was

just a

Romney dropped

comment, but

out,

it

Agnew went

turned

to

New

inform Nixon personally that while he was running a Draft

Rockefeller effort, he admired the former vice president but thought the

New

York governor had

erative observed later:

no reason not

to.

a better chance of being elected.

"We had

pretty well kissed

He was openly and

Agnew

One Nixon

op-

We

had

off.

.

.

.

strongly for Rockefeller.'"

In March, after conversations with other governors, Rockefeller cited the imperative for the Republican

pendents

nominee

—an obvious assessment

Therefore, he said,

"I

am

that

to attract

Democrats and inde-

Nixon was not the one

to

do

so.

not going to create dissension within the Repub-

Snared on the Rebound

by contending for the nomination, but

lican Party to serve the

was

It

7

American people

I

am

ready and willing

if called."

and an eager Agnew

a categorical invitation to be drafted,

agreed to chair a national Rockefeller-for-President citizens' committee to achieve

it.

He

to serve,

help open an

at the time,

it

but he was not the

and only when he backed out was

office in

Agnew

states,

York with other party

New

all this

time,

his

was now only

candidacy with a personal

a formality.

Candor, he

said,

would be

his

fences.

He

Republican voters and

Hampshire Highway Hotel.

new

leaf with the

byword, and he promised that he

would provide regular interviews and

briefings along the way,

Pat Buchanan, with

his press secretary

to business in

and rebuilding

letter to

New

in

with the expectation that

stood on a table and said he was turning over a

press.

first

Park Avenue apartment

left

political chits

held a kickoff press party at the old

He

asked to

drew Republicans

Nixon was methodically tending

Hampshire, collecting old

announced

at his

Most

leaders.

Rockefeller's declaration of candidacy

During

Agnew

delivered a pep talk, and a few days later

he attended a meeting with Rockefeller

New

choice

Annapolis staffed by a Rockefeller man. At the

Rockefeller-for-President national meeting, which

from seventeen

first

Former Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton

for the chairmanship.

had agreed

know

didn't

whom

I

and

that

had made that 1966

southern swing, would keep the reporters informed of his whereabouts at all times.

So,

it

sleeping,

was

a surprise the next

Nixon

at the

morning

to learn that while

we were

crack of dawn had slipped out of the hotel and con-

ducted a "town meeting" with some hand-picked college students, farmers,

and other

ads.

So much

locals,

filmed by his

for a fresh start.

own crew

to be excerpted for television

We were all mortified, mostly for swallow-

ing Nixon's promise of candor.

The

old press skepticism returned along

with the old Nixon.

Meanwhile, Romney kept slogging along. The most memorable mo-

ment

for

me came

Michigan governor

game,

in

bowling

tried his

which the player

ten, rather balls,

at a

than two

hand

still

at

where the earnest and determined

duckpins, the smaller version of the

gets three smaller balls to

balls, as in

seven pins were

alley

regular bowling. After the three allotted

standing, so

knocked over the tenth pin

knock down the

— with

Romney

kept trying.

his thirty-fourth ball.

He finally Romney

's

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

S

was

hapless performance

a

metaphor

for his

campaign, and he dropped

out before primary day, leaving Nixon with an empty victory.

On March

New

Hampshire when the aforementioned and little-known Gene McCarthy scored a another political earthquake shook

12,

near-upset of President Johnson in the Democratic primary, winning 42.2 percent of the vote. Four days

York,

a bitter

LBJ

foe,

later,

jumped

Senator Robert

F.

Kennedy of New

into the race, threatening to split the

Democratic Party wide open. The development did not go unnoticed by Rockefeller.

Five days after that, Rockefeller held a nationally televised press conference in a major

New

York

hotel.

That morning the

had reported that Rockefeller would be announcing

was

To

in the ring.

Agnew had

corps,

moment

share the happy

New

that at last his hat

with the Annapolis press

a portable black-and-white television set

house and

his office at the state

invited

Yoi\ Times

brought into

the reporters in to watch with

all

him. Rockefeller approached the microphone and to the astonishment of the audience declared that he cally that

I

am

had decided

after all "to reiterate

unequivo-

not a candidate campaigning directly or indirectly for the

presidency of the United States."

Agnew was

10

thoroughly shocked and humiliated

in front of a press

corps that had never been very favorably disposed toward him. Rockefeller in

advance had telephoned some other governors and party leaders

who had

been encouraging him to run and told them of his negative deci-

sion, but

he did not

call

Agnew,

the

man who had

been leading the pa-

rade for him. Rockefeller said later he had tried to get through, but couldn't. Outwardly,

Agnew

indicated no malice toward

of the snub, and he even repeated that

"I still

him

as a result

think Nelson Rockefeller

is

the best candidate the Republican Party could offer." But he obviously

had cooled, observing that

"Fm

in the process

don't have anyone who's running

That that "I

two

last

am

editors of the

w

ith

He may

However, not only Agnew's

stature in

Maryland had taken

New

Yorf{

"It's

that

I

can support."

out Nixon, but

I

11

Agnew added

—may —even be my number-

substantial ego but also his po-

a blow. Later in the year, he told the

Times he had gone out on a limb for Rockefeller

many Marylanders and

along with him.

of revising and watching.

moment

at first to rule

not against Mr. Nixon.

choice."

litical

remark seemed

at the

they

all

had been

left

hanging out

to

dry

not personal rancor," he insisted, "Its like hitting

Snared on the Rebound

9

my

you where you work. This was an incursion into

and

ity,

after

what does

all,

a politician

have but

political acceptabil-

his credibility?"

Agnew's disappointment and humiliation were not camp. John Sears, the

young lawyer

as a principal delegate-hunter,

was

in

lost

Alaska

at the time,

nor Walter Hickel. As Sears recalled the situation

later:

Alaska and get Hickel

to

Rocky got

"Nixon was go-

this

He

guy Agnew.'

fighting

me

over

fighting over

the idea.

week,

it,

it, it

do

a

somebody he

him over

thought

didn't

finally

when

in to see

is

feel pretty

He

know.

time. So that's

it

to do,

a Rockefeller

didn't even

guy

to

do

it.

He

want

call

is

so he

good, because

was, really?

if

if

guy

didn't

up

was

he was

But he didn't

like

in the next

want

to call

to call people he did

what you were dealing with."

13

agreed to send another supporter, former congressman

Agnew on the short hop. meeting between Nixon and Agnew in New

to

Annapolis

to field

Sears got back from Alaska he found a note on his desk to

Nixon, which he did. "Milhous has

Agnew," Sears This

Agnew was

You know what

Ellsworth arranged for a

go

I'd

Everybody figured

'One thing you've got

said,

which made you

Bob Ellsworth of Kansas, York, and

him

told

that.

meant he was probably going

lot.'

know most of the Nixon

for him.

told him, 'Look, if you're even seen with the

I

it'll

at

up Milhous and

called

I

come out

I

Hickel would go for him. He'd been for Romney, and

in,

Nixon had been mad "So

to

serving

courting Gover-

ing crazy thinking Rockefeller was getting into the race, so

go up

on the Nixon

who was

Nixon's law firm

in

12

recalled later,

just a fantastic guy.

"and

How

he's telling

he's

isn't

out to lunch with

him and

all

been out

me what

to

a great

lunch with

guy

this

is.

smart and tough, and I'm thinking,

such a bad guy, but

'Wait a minute, he

just

Agnew



.'

What happened

did was

tell

is

he went

him what an

asshole

Rockefeller was. That got rid of the ice in the conversation very quickly." 14

As

often occurred with Nixon, a

plex, especially about his

with a galloping inferiority com-

appearance and his awkwardness with "manly"

men, he was taken with the

The Maryland

man

tall,

erect,

and impeccably groomed Agnew.

governor, for his part, was impressed with Nixon

if

only

by his reputation and achievements, but he did not crumble at once. In fact, after

the lunch he had told reporters he

would be the Nixon. for

He

party's best candidate, but

said

still

he was taking a good look

he wasn't ready to endorse him but

him. He's the front-runner."

thought Rockefeller

"I

at

have a high regard

I

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

0

for the Nixon strategists to step up the courtship. They weren't convinced they had heard the last of Rockefeller as a challenger. "The effect of Nixon and Agnew in even being seen together was to cause some people who had been behind Rockefeller to think twice be-

That was enough

fore they started back

on that path," Sears

and anybody we could be seen talking

said. "It

bought us some time,

or pick off, or get out of that

to,

camp would do a lot to help us lick Rockefeller in the end. ... take that much more conversation with them in the future to back

By

in Rockefeller's bag." this time, there

governor race.

It

would

get

them

New

York

15

was indeed

a further incentive for the

to reconsider his decision to stay out of the 1968 presidential

On March

30, in the course of a report

which he announced

a halt in the

on the war

in

Vietnam

bombing of North Vietnam, Lyndon

Johnson shocked a Sunday night television audience by declaring that devote his

full attention to

in

the war, "I shall not seek, and

I

to

will not accept,

the nomination of my party for another term as your president."

As LBJ dropped his bombshell, Richard Nixon was returning to New York on his chartered jet from Milwaukee, where he had held a reception to enlarge his certain

days hence.

On

unopposed victory

landing, he had a

Hubert Humphrey, would backed by Johnson.

situation.

it

on

Rockefeller,

a platter,"

now

Johnson."

forecast that LBJ's vice president,

Johnson

lets

Bobby

Then Nixon turned to his own party but our game could change

he added.

are a divided

too," he said. "Rockefeller will race,

the year of the

is

step in as the administration candidate,

"I'd be very surprised if President

"The Democrats

drawing from the

ready. "This

He the president to drop out; Kennedy would now be

Nixon accurately

the frontrunner.

Kennedy have

comment

Romney, then

dropouts," he said. "First said he hadn't expected

Wisconsin primary two

in the

have

to

he will enter

it

determine whether, again."

16

after with-

Indeed, only days after

Johnson's surprise decision not to seek reelection, Rockefeller was entertaining second thoughts about his

own

candidacy.

Whether Nixon recognized it at once or not, his new friendship with Spiro Agnew, Rockefeller's recently jilted former champion, suddenly took on a trying to his

new significance. The New York governor already had begun woo back his old suitor, starting with a too-late phone call after

March

21 pullout that

was received by an

Rockefeller's banker brother

David

called

on

icy

Agnew.

In the next days,

Agnew and

so did the gov-

Snared on the Rebound

ernor's political right-hand

obviously

down deep

much about

it,

he

Meanwhile,

man, George Hinman. "He was

he was hurt,"

just didn't

the

come

Hinman

recalled.

along, either."

Maryland governor had

his

friendly but

"He

didn't talk

17

hands

home, where

full at

he was embroiled in a racial situation that would soon enhance his

politi-

appeal to the Nixon campaign. As a former Baltimore County execu-

cal

owed

he

tive,

governor

his election as

gubernatorial candidacy of an

avowed

in

1966 to the Democratic

ultraconservative segregationist

named George P. Mahoney. Mahoney's platform, summed up in the camProtect It," had caused libpaign slogan "A Man's Home is His Castle



erals

and moderates

in

both parties to flock to Agnew's support, assuring

his election. In the process, in

seen widely as a centrist or even a liberal on

But eight months into

his

Agnew was

comparison with Mahoney,

term

civil rights.

as governor,

Agnew was

confronted by

town

a severe challenge, in the outbreak of violence in the Eastern Shore

of Cambridge, the

Power

leader H.

site

of racial

mayhem

Rap Brown had been

adults.

He

called

or run

clared:

burned

"You it

Black

bitter, vitriolic,

anti-white

an audience of several hundred black teenagers and young

to

on them "to get your guns

you go, take some of them with you.

down

earlier.

invited to speak by the town's

Black Action Federation, and he delivered a

harangue

summers

four

him all

I

... if

you gotta

don't care

if

die,

we have

to

wherever burn him

out." Pointing to a local black elementary school, he de-

should have burned that school long ago, you should have

down

to the

ground, brother."

And

later: "If

America don't

18

come around, we're going to burn America down." When Brown led a march in the town, police fired on the crowd, and in the early morning a fire broke out in the black school. The all-white fire

department refused

scene ordered a

fire

to respond, until the state attorney general

truck to bring the blaze under control.

on the

Agnew

gave

orders for Brown's arrest; he was later apprehended and charged with inciting a riot

and

inciting to burn.

Agnew, who

as a

county executive had a

reputation as a defender of civil rights, locked onto as a black leader. Thereafter

more moderate blacks who

he never passed called

a

Brown

chance

on him. "He had

as

pure poison

to attack

a tape

him

to

of Brown's

speech in his office," one longtime associate recalled, "and he would keep

1

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

2

playing

it

to black ministers

incitement? Isn't

'Isn't that

Agnew pushed

bills to

who came it?"'

19

in.

'Listen to that,' he

would

say.

In his 1968 state legislative program,

more powers

give himself as governor

with

to deal

riots.

March of

In to

Agnew

1968, the student president of

Bowie

him of student impatience with

telling

tion of the school. Later in the

month, when a

State College wrote

the dilapidated condi-

favorite history professor

was denied tenure with no explanation given, more than 200 undergradand asked Agnew

uates conducted a peaceable boycott of classes

campus.

to the

who

aide

only

was

result

He declined, made

matters worse. But

Agnew would

still

campus takeover by

a complete

to

come

instead sending a fast-talking, condescending

the students

The

not go.

and then

a police

presence that produced a temporary settlement.

Meanwhile,

an unrelated event in one of Baltimore's toughest black

in

neighborhoods, local leaders met with Stokely Carmichael, former head

(SNCC) and an

of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

emerging leader of the Black Power movement. report of incendiary talk that

lice officer filed a

new. In Baltimore's black community, a

between

older, established

An

undercover

split

III,

to

po-

Ag-

had already developed

moderate leaders and the new

The white mayor, Thomas D'Alesandro

state

was duly passed on

militants.

had undertaken

a

cam-

paign against street crime, and the head of the Baltimore office of SNCC

had denounced

as "a

it

war on

the black community," calling the police

its

enemy. State Senator Clarence Mitchell, one of Baltimore's most prominent, moderate black leaders, took to the Senate floor in Annapolis and,

approval of white leaders, labeled the remarks "bigotry."

to the

was

meeting of both the old and the new leaders

a "black unity"

things

down, with

that meeting, too,

A

few nights

State

conciliatory

later,

Agnew ducked

sion across the street.

and

Agnew

By

Jr.

to

napolis, ordered the

go

to the

Bowie

the state capitol in

the protest by staying in the governor's

nightfall,

man-

227 of the students had been arrested

On

the

same

night, Dr.

Memphis, and two nights Agnew, from a riot command post in An-

was assassinated

Baltimore was in flames.

calm

20

his

ordered Bowie State closed down.

Martin Luther King later

own conclusions. with Agnew having refused

and drew

to

result

comments made. Agnew had learned of

campus, students piled onto buses and stormed

Annapolis.

The

in

Maryland National Guard

into the city as local black

Snared on the Rebound

leaders fruitlessly tried to maintain calm in the black sections.

went

Baltimore early the next morning and finally called for federal

to

By now,

troops.

Two

Agnew

six

people had been killed, 700 injured and 5,000 arrested.

days after the burial of Dr. King in Atlanta, about a hundred of

Baltimore's most prominent and moderate black leaders responded to an

Agnew

invitation to

arrival, they

meet with him

were surprised

evision cameras for

to see tight security

what they had expected

Agnew

the governor.

in the city's State Office Building.

A

stern

—and

and somber

assembled black leaders the

community.

"I

a large battery of tel-

to be a private

a host of other

Agnew began in

—who was

uniformed

in

which he immediately insulted these

if

what he obviously intended

they were responsible for the to be a

It

is

would

in

sort of

Then,

way

his

is

in

to look

to the top,"

and

missing from

this

harangue that Americans

far

beyond Maryland

time come to expect from Spiro T. Agnew. In an obvious refer-

him of meeting with

and agreeing not his

riots.

1

ence to the black unity meeting of days before

of

caterwauling, riot-inciting, burn-America-down type of

conspicuous by his absence."-

was the

pillars

compliment, he called on them

that "the circuit-riding, Hanoi-visiting type of leader

leader

uniform and car-

officers.

reading a formal statement to the

around and note that each of them "has worked

The

Maryland

did not request your presence to bid for peace with the

public dollar," he said, as

assembly.

meeting with

strode in accompanied by the head of the

National Guard, General George Gelston rying a riding crop

and

On

remarks."

He

earlier,

he accused the moderates

the very rabble-rousers he had not invited

to "openly criticize

any black spokesman, regardless of

said sarcastically that he did not

blame them "for break-

ing and running in the face of what appeared to be overwhelming opinion in the

Negro community. But

the opinion of a few, distorted

actually,"

he lectured them,

and magnified by the

"it

was only

silence of most of you

here today." 22

Agnew's attack caused an uproar walked

out.

One

early supporter of

any bigot

in

visibly

Agnew

in the

room,

as

many

got up and

shaken black minister, Marion C. Bascom, an for governor, said of him later:

America." 23 Those

drone on, charging that the

fires

who were

stayed heard

"He

Agnew

is

started "at the suggestion

the instruction of the advocates of violence"

as sick as

continue to

from out of town,

and with

specifically

mentioning Carmichael and Brown. Unless they were repudiated by the

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

'4

black moderates

him, he

sitting before

still

most of Maryland's

said,

blacks "will be unjustly victimized by a hardening of attitudes in the decent white community." In a remark that later

having come from him, he deplored aftermath of violence."

would seem preposterous

"this polarization of attitudes as

an

24

The meeting ended amid

cries

of protest that were widely reported the

next day, not only in the newspapers and on the television channels of

Baltimore but also around the country.

up on the uproar office.

He had

New York

in

first

was Pat Buchanan, then

for

Buchanan assembled

in St. Louis,

Nixon and then

work

for

him.

on Agnew's stormy confrontation with the

clips

black leaders in Baltimore,

to play golf

Richard Amberg. Young

the paper to

left

picked

Nixon law

in the

met Nixon when the great man had come

with his newspaper's publisher

Buchanan caddied

Among those who quickly

knowing they would be of interest

to his boss,

himself a strong advocate of taking a tough law-and-order posture to-

ward racial disturbances and violence. Nixon, as Buchanan knew he would be, was impressed. After he'd met Agnew, Buchanan said later, "The boss thought this guy was

a very

tough guy. This

tion that his first impression.

strong fellow this,

who exuded

.

all in .

was

Nixon's mind was another indica-

even

this strength

in a

met and

talked,

Buchanan

said,

as the politics of his

"As long

we thought we could get him [Agnew], and course we had to follow to get him."

right things,

predictable

While

all this

new.

One

and

did the

wasn't an un-

to get pres-

persistent than

Ag-

out the black leaders in Baltimore, called the

Rockefeller operative in Annapolis fice

more

we

of them, Senator Thruston Morton of Kentucky, on the very

Agnew was chewing

day

it

as

was going on, Nelson Rockefeller continued

sure to reconsider from other political figures

a real

touchy situation like

and was not beleaguered by what people viewed

past." After they'd

was

a valid one; that here

told

him

who was

to relocate the effort in

now

afoot,

state

primary and instead would launch

busy closing up the draft of-

New York. A new approach was

wherein Rockefeller would not compete against Nixon a

New

any

massive communications cam-

paign designed to drive his numbers up in the strategists figured, the

in

polls. If successful, his

York governor could go

into the Republican

National Convention in Miami Beach with a strong argument that he, not Nixon, was the only Republican

who

could win

in

November.

a

Snared on the Rebound

On

J

GOP nomina-

April 30, Rockefeller finally entered the race for the

tion. "I

do

5

he explained, "because the dramatic and unprecedented

this,"

events of the past weeks have revealed in most serious terms the gravity of

we

the crisis that

front the nation,

an effective way

The news in

frankly find that to

I

to present the alternatives."

Agnew

surprised

25

but did not dissuade him from his interest

Agnew told reporters, "I think it is very good for the RepubliParty that we have two candidates. Certainly Governor Rockefeller, said on many occasions, is a highly qualified person and may very

Nixon.

can as

new circumstances that concomment from the sidelines is not

face as a people. ... In the

I

well provide a formidable candidacy for the election in

he pointedly added, withdrawal.

[first]

.

"I .

do think

and

I

think

take another look at this situation." tic"

have happened since

a lot of things it's

a

It

new

game.

ball

was not

November." But,

that he

I

his

think I've got to

was

"less enthusias-

much Agnew

about Rockefeller, he said in response to a question, "but I'm

more

enthusiastic for Mr. Nixon's candidacy than

clearly appreciated the beneficial position in

I

was

before."

26

which he now found himself.

In the period heading toward the Republican National Convention,

with Nixon steadily accumulating delegates and Rockefeller struggling to

make

the case for himself through favorable polls, the former vice presi-

dent occasionally would confer with Agnew, in the manner in which he

whose support he wanted.

often "conferred" with other Republicans

would

listen to

them and schmooze with them

ticipation in the

ideas

as welfare

paign aide, John Ehrlichman, candidate, visited

Agnew

For the time being, a

new

ally

in

which had

hands of John

some of Agnew's

reform and job training.

One Nixon cam-

Annapolis

all it

F.

in his

to

was

them

further.

that Richard

Nixon had

second quest for the presidency

discipline

and attention



to detail than the

led to his narrow, heart-breaking defeat in 1960 at the

Kennedy. As

for

disappointment of Rockefeller's tional politics. In

taking on domestic issues for his

to discuss

amounted

among many

He

a sense of par-

in

who was

campaign marked with greater first,

them

campaign. But he also took an interest

on such subjects

found

to give

Agnew, he had rebounded from

erratic,

disorganized flirtation with na-

Nixon, the little-known governor of Maryland

associated with a less

the

now was

glamorous but more sure-footed candidate

whom

he was finding more and more attractive as a prospective president of the

United

States.

Chapter

2

SPIRO WHO?

In

early

May

of 1968, Governor

undecided on supporting nomination. ter his

He had made

Agnew was

still officially

a candidate for the Republican presidential

clear to

Maryland

reporters, however, that af-

disappointing courtship of Nelson Rockefeller he had taken a

shine to Richard Nixon, in response to

some aggressive wooing from

Nixon's campaign aides.

Agnew's sudden engagement

in

Republican national

gone unobserved by the Annapolis press corps.

He

politics

had not

reported at a news

conference that because of the "very dramatic changes" that had occurred in the past

month, he was taking

deciding "where this election."

I

am

a careful reading of the prospects before

going to throw whatever influence

can have in

I

1

Agnew had

previously brushed aside any notions that as a one-term

governor from a small

state

suspicious reporter

now

have no ambitions

at all

he might wind up on the national

asked: "Governor, do you

on the national scene?"

still

was

One

maintain that you

When

he did not have such aspirations, the reporter persisted. the one-time Rockefeller situation, that he

ticket.

he answered that

"On

reflection of

available for a draft," he

asked, "are you available for a draft for the second place?"

Agnew

replied,

quoting an earlier Rockefeller comment, that

"I don't

consider myself standby equipment." Then, in a serious vein, he said: "It

would be the height of temerity state that

for

me

to suggest that

coming from

never had a vice-president possibility and being only a

little

a

over

17

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

c8

a year in office, that this this time."

A

is

something serious enough

couple of weeks

later,

ing considered as his running mate was

veteran Nixon-watcher,

Agnew

the same.

me

to consider at

however, David Broder of The Washington

Nixon and came away reporting

Post interviewed

him

for

2

Don

said he

that

among

Agnew. The next

those be-

day, another

Irwin of the Los Angeles Times, wrote

was "very

flattered"

and phoned Nixon

much to tell

so.

When

Agnew whether he would make the same disclaimer that Governor Mills Godwin of Virginia had made, that he'd rather keep the job he already had, Agnew dodged by saying he considreporters asked

ered the vice presidency "a very high office and a great challenge in self."

He would

it-

be going to the party convention, he said, as Maryland's

favorite-son presidential candidate.

At the same time, though, Agnew took some terpreted as romancing Nixon. For example, he

actions that could be in-

made

a speech in favor of

"black capitalism" as the "answer to the despair of the ghetto"

Nixon

violence.

The

recent

tions but by evil

industry."

When



Rockefeller in

stiff

the

power of

the purse:

by

just

evil

said, "is

Negro

condi-

not black

and

enterprise

mid-May came

to

Baltimore with a party plat-

a joint press conference

with Agnew, both

men

and embarrassed. Suddenly Rockefeller blurted out an apol-

psychological

governor for

earlier

moment." Agnew,

don't accept the apology, as

At

were caused "not

3

to his fellow

many

said,

a favorite

himself stood on racial

men." The Republican solution, he

form task force and held seemed

he

riots,

power but green power

ogy

how Agnew

proposal, and a reminder of



I

"having gone the wrong way

startled, said:

don't think

it's

"No apology

necessary at

is

all. I

at a

necessary.

don't think

people realize what a candidate for president has to go through." a later

evening reception given

in Rockefeller's

honor by

I

liberal

4

Re-

publican senator Charles "Mac" Mathias, obviously arranged in an effort to close the breach,

Agnew

avoided the honored guest. Rockefeller ad-

dressed the crowd on the back lawn of the host's house and again

an embarrassingly impassioned plea for Agnew's forgiveness. replied in diplomatic niceties. Shortly afterward,

interview show, Rockefeller said of the situation:

on "I

made

Agnew

a television

Sunday

was down

there in

Who?

Spiro

Maryland the

few days and

last

5

ties

again." But that

I

we

are beginning to reestablish

was wishful thinking.

With Rockefeller leaving

the Republican primary field to Nixon, the

former vice president moved from egates. All the

think

19

state to state collecting

convention del-

campaign attention was on the Democratic

Kennedy posted primary

victories over

McCarthy

in

Robert

side, as

Indiana and Ne-

braska before stumbling in Oregon. But he recovered in California on the first

Tuesday

at the

have his candidacy and his

in June, only to

hand of an

assassin disturbed by

tragedy sealed the nomination of

Kennedy's support of

Humphrey, who

not contest the primaries. Unlike Rockefeller,

He

establishment in his corner.

easily

tion delegates outside the primaries, feller,

meanwhile, had

a vain effort to persuade the It

GOP convention

up

The

Israel.

like Rockefeller did

the party

conven-

a majority of

which assured to jack

snuffed out

Humphrey had

rounded up

on trying

to rely

life

Rocke-

his selection.

his polling

to turn

numbers

in

away from Nixon.

wasn't happening.

At

a Republican governors' conference in Tulsa, Rockefeller

tion

critical. I

He

told reporters: "I read Nelson's statement

know what

don't

on dealing with

civil

it

He

says."

by

now was

on Viet-

disorder and was impressed by "a tremendous riots."

0

openly wearing his confrontation with the black

leaders in Baltimore as a badge of honor,

ment of his

his

said he preferred Nixon's posi-

surge to Nixon after the King assassination and the subsequent

Agnew

an-

Agnew. But he wasn't buying, and went out of

other direct pitch to

way to be nam, and

made

political value to the

and

a not-so-subtle advertise-

law-and-order campaign that Nixon was

already running on his own. In a late-night chat with a few reporters in his suite at Tulsa's

Camelot Inn, Agnew held forth on

his outlook

the black protest. Referring to a current Poor People's ington, he declared

it

"out of hand" and asked: "Did you see the Cadillacs

parked around Resurrection City [near the Lincoln Memorial]?

When

things are changing in this country.

Baltimore that

I

felt

I

all

I tell

you,

told those black leaders in

they were responsible for not reading the riot act [to

black extremists], you should have seen the mail

land but from

toward

March on Wash-

over the country.

I've tried to be liberal

but

at

.

.

.

I

got, not only in

some point you have

people and start following them."

7

Mary-

People are fed up with the

riots.

to stop leading the

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

20

Six days later,

Agnew

on Nixon

called

Aides said they had talked about

Agnew of his

York apartment.

disorders and demonstrators.

civil

When

made no mention

held his next news conference in Annapolis he

Nixon, but sounded the Nixon law-and-order theme

visit to

sponse to questions on street protest.

He

tougher than Johnson in dealing with

most

New

in his

people in this country right

who

he said, were politicians

Nixon would be

said he thought

because "he's concerned, as are

it,

now, that there

ness that has been allowed to prosper

in re-

and

a

is

wave of permissive-

What

flourish."

voters wanted,

"actually have the courage to put their foot

down and say no to some of these unreasonable requests." The Annapolis reporters had no difficulty recognizing Agnew's open playing up to Nixon. One asked, noting that he was speaking out more on 8

national issues: "Are you pledged to serve the full four years as gover-

nor?"

Agnew

and under the

move

was elected

replied: "I

say this just to give

you a

hint:

that

is

and

to serve four full years,

I

would

don't have a lieutenant governor here,

[state! constitution,

to the national scene

very quickly.

we

I

suppose what happens

we would have

a

if

I

were

to

Democratic governor

Now that doesn't sound very likely to you, does it?"

9

Pressed on whether he would consider "any offer at the national level that

you might get

appointment consider

Two gates, as a

At as

it,

in a

but

it

November

after the

Nixon was

election" [presumably a cabinet

administration],

Agnew

said he

would have

to

unlikely to happen.

days later the Maryland state party picked

its

convention dele-

most of whom were already supporting Nixon. But the delegation

whole committed

his next

itself, in

news conference, he

governor "no matter what



a formality, to

Agnew

said, "I intend to serve

as

long as I'm

as

its

favorite son.

out the four years"

alive, that is."

10

Meanwhile, Nixon, though having methodically signed on enough delegate support to put

him

close to the nomination, kept a

wary eye not

only on Rockefeller but also on freshman governor Ronald Reagan. Californian, also heading his state's huge delegation as

downplayed any

its

talk of a serious bid for the presidential

The

favorite son,

nomination

while quietly touring western and southern states to confer with fencestraddling delegates. So to the

Nixon

in his disciplined

most conservative of Republican leaders

Tower, Strom

Thurmond



to secure his base

against any possible defection to Reagan.

way made pilgrimages

— Barry Goldwater, John on the

Then he

party's right

settled in at his

wing

Key

Spiro

Who?

2

I

Biscayne retreat to plan for the convention, which was to be held in Mi-

ami Beach

August.

in

A

was

have a string

key element

in the strategy

way

Rockefeller or Reagan posed a seri-

of favorite sons break his

if either

to

ous threat at the convention. Included in that calculation, obviously, was

Ted Agnew of Maryland.

Among was

the major decisions Nixon would consider at Key Biscayne choice of a running mate. As a man who incessantly reviewed,

his

even agonized over, past peat them.

Nixon

political mistakes,

his

campaign

dissected his failed 1960 presidential

weaknesses and errors, vowing

had been

he was determined not to

to correct

pledge to campaign in

a late trek to Alaska that

One

them.

all fifty states. It

He

for

mistake, obviously,

had locked him into

had consumed valuable time and

hausted for the campaign's homestretch.

re-

left

wasn't going to

him exdo that

again in 1968. Another was his 1960 dawn-to-midnight schedule, which also left

him

a physical basket case.

demonstrated

in the primaries,

This time around,

he was undertaking a

regimen, relying more heavily on well-spaced

as

he had already

much

taxing

less

set

speeches covered by

his 1960 selection of

United Nations am-

television.

Finally,

Nixon

on

reflected

bassador Henry Cabot Lodge as his running mate, which he had lived to regret.

also

Lodge not only was

was given

elected

to

major

would appoint

too casual a campaigner for Nixon's taste; he

At one point he promised

gaffes.

a black to his cabinet,

as well as politically inept for a

southern base. aristocratic

The

And beyond

which was not

that for

in

him

to say,

that, the insecure

Nixon thought

the

tall

and

Boston Brahmin had upstaged him.

relationship between

Nixon and Lodge was

so cool that they did

Lodge's office in Saigon

They

finally

when Lodge was John Kennedy's ambas-

sador to South Vietnam, whereupon he told Nixon: "You know, Dick, those stories about

how

I

11

According

to

an eyewitness, Nixon

stared at him. In the approaching campaign, he

just

wanted an energetic run-

ning-mate, and a politically sensitive one, yet one

second fiddle.

all

took a nap every afternoon in the 1960 cam-

paign? They weren't true."

to play

if

Republican appealing to a conservative,

not see each other for two years after the failed campaign.

met

Nixon

who clearly was

willing

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

22

As Nixon aides, the later: "I

Key Biscayne began hearing

in

name

was

for

Nixon picking Reagan,

frankly, because

problem was [Alabama governor George] Wallace.

real

ning more

states [as a third-party candidate]

thought that was good

But

politics.

I

young

thought our

I

We had him win-

than he eventually did.

I

thought Nixon would never

also

Lodge had outshined him

take a guy like Reagan, because he thought 1

the thoughts of his

of Ronald Reagan quickly emerged. John Sears recalled

960 and he wasn't going to do that again."

[in

12

1

Once when of the time

make him

if

Sears was alone with Nixon, he mentioned Reagan. "Most I

gave him any advice," Sears recalled, "you sort of had to

think

it

was

alone with him, because

him what

own

his if

was too embarrassing

to do, that

Reagan?"

Sears replied:

"Oh,

to be the president.

and being

I

was.

And you had

for him."

changed the

subject."

was often perceived

the other. Pat

to

we were

wrong.

I

thought you were

talking about vice president,

"He

laughed.

the campaign]

I

heard him laugh.

Then he

13

But the notion of choosing

posed running mates

telling

what kind of president would he make,

I've got this all

thought

[in

to be

Nixon responded

slavishly loyal to the president." Sears recalled:

That was the only time

self

it

was anybody there and you were

there

the suggestion by asking: "But

going

idea, or say

a counter to

and aides

as a centrist,

who would

Buchanan

also

Wallace remained. Nixon him-

help

to his right

him on one

and

side of the

was strong on Reagan,

left

pro-

spectrum or

feeling that the

charismatic California governor could be an effective candidate in the

South and could free Nixon up

to concentrate

young and moderate speechwriter, Ray say of

New

Price,

York or Senator Charles Percy of

on the North. Another

pushed Mayor John LindIllinois as attractive to the

urban, industrial states of the North and Midwest, adding enough strength to In

all

make up

for Wallace's Dixie support.

and Nixon never mentioned him bered,

Agnew was

these early staff discussions,

"He

either.

never seriously injected,

But by mid-June, Sears remem-

got very afraid, after everybody on the staff had had his say

about the vice presidency, that by picking either on the conservative side

Nobody suggested Agnew, and Nixon wouldn't mention anybody when we

or on the liberal side he might provoke another split in the party.

ever

talked about

got

down

it.

He'd

just listen.

to trying to figure out

But

it

who

was sometime around there

that he

could stand in the middle with him,

Who?

Spiro

23

and avoid the problem of bringing the convention

became more and more apparent

tions. ... It just

to

blows about

Agnew

by

this time,

with his

fac-

that he wasn't seriously

considering anybody readily identifiable on either side."

to

its

new law-and-order

14

rhetoric,

had begun

shed his early reputation as a moderate or even a liberal compared to

George Mahoney, the Democratic segregationist he had defeated governor of Maryland. But

lowed

Republicans

to those

moderate

a

or, in

many

got beyond Reagan on one

hadn't closely

and low-profile

his transformation in his small

mained

who

state,

Agnew

fol-

re-

nondescript cipher. Once Nixon

cases, a

and Lindsay and Percy on the

side

for

other,

Sears said, "I don't think he had anybody else in mind. So by the process

of elimination you just had to figure there someplace."

was

It

suit,

also clear that

to be

someone

in the

middle

inasmuch

as foreign policy

was Nixon's strong

who had credentials on the domestic side kibitz his own decisions on foreign affairs.

he would want somebody

and would not be

Above to

had

it

15

all,

likely to

and uninfluential

after eight years as the docile

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nixon might

vice presidency, but he didn't tration of his

own.

He wanted

importance of the

talk about the

have any plans

to build

somebody, simply,

to

it

do

vice president

up

as

in

an adminis-

he was told, and

smile as he did.

What Nixon wanted, liner,"

that

and not only

Sears said at the time, was "strictly a second-

for reasons of his

shaky ego. Polls were taken

showed none of the prospective running mates would help

indeed, they suggested that

Nixon would run

possible, so the next best thing

sense

was

a

few

would be

nobody on the national

In late July, a

own

Nixon went

to

Montauk

wants

later,

to substantiate his

to a situation

he's

16

we

got

who we

in a

for

to

from party leaders on the

see R.

N. polling people,"

He just of man who comes

not seeking their opinion.

spite

said:

when he asked

who

Island, with only

of all

this

searching and consul-

did proves he wasn't coming to

Another intimate

taking that advice

solicited

views. He's not the kind

without an opinion. In

tation, the fact

open mind."

own

on Long

Point,

"Any time you

"you can be sure

choose somebody

nomination acceptance speech and

examine the hundreds of letters he had

Sears said

But that wasn't

scene.

aides, ostensibly to prepare his

choice of his running mate.

to

best alone.

the ticket;

it

with an

"Of course he had no intention of it. That's just Dick's way of making

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

24

people thing,

involved in important decisions.

feel they're

and some people

During

this period,

eat

it

up."

doesn't cost any-

It

17

Nixon journeyed

to

Annapolis for a dinner

at the

governor's mansion for a group of wealthy Maryland contributors to a

fund

to

pay Agnew's

teur pianist,

and

"If I'm elected,

political expenses.

Nixon

as

assure you there will be

I

House." The remark drew wrote

him

told

on the

Agnew

"if he did a

ticket.

To

attention.

little

18

job,

Nixon, was an ama-

some of the other

his

During

in the

this time,

guests:

White

Nixon

law partner and campaign

to place the candidate's

good

like

two piano players

memoir, John Mitchell,

later in his

manager, asked

Agnew,

that night, he told

left

name

in

nomination, and

he would be considered for the second spot

that extent, at least,

Agnew's speech was an audition."

19

The offer to nominate Nixon assured the first-term Maryland governor a moment in the national spotlight, but little was made of it at the [19]

time. After

all,

Agnew was

just

another of the favorite-son candidates

Nixon's campaign was courting to put him over the top on the convention's first presidential roll call.

At the convention, Nixon made the usual round of

He

indicated he

was leaning toward

middle-road running mate by

a

who would

suring them he would not select someone

was another way of saying he wasn't going to be in either

extreme wing of the

state delegations.

to

as-

be divisive. That

choose anybody perceived

GOP — not

Reagan on the

A

certainly not Rockefeller, Lindsay, or Percy

on the

of one of Nixon's sessions with a southern

state delegation,

left.

right

and

tape recording

obtained by

Miami Herald, had him denying "some cockeyed stories that Nixon has made a deal" and telling the delegates, "I am not going to take, I can the

assure you, anybody that It

was

is

easier to divine

he was. But those

going

to divide this party."

whom Nixon

who knew him

clues that should have tipped

was not considering than

them

off.

as self-made, as he liked to see himself.

As Sears put

it

later:

tact

was such

Agnew about

that in Nixon's

against this

in the past,

liked "strong"

especially if he perceived

And

"Here

nowhere who he had never thought

They knew he

whom

were certain

best insisted later there

men, physically and temperamentally, and in the party.

20

all

them

he liked to "discover" comers of a sudden was

of. The mind he was able

a

guy out of

timing of their personal con-

background of personalities

to

form

that he

his

impression of

had some

feeling

with a pretty fresh outlook. His personal contact with

Who?

Spiro

him

25

was

started fairly early to enforce this idea that he

tough guy that maybe nobody had thought

of."

a good, strong,

21

Before the convention opened and party platform hearings were to be held, a

development occurred that made

pretty clear that

it

Nixon would

not have to shop around the vice-presidential nomination in order to nail

down

own nomination

his

for president. Rockefeller's

advance men,

counting on their candidate's expensive efforts to boost himself in the polls,

orchestrated the flashing of huge spotlight messages on the sides of

ROCKY CAN WIN. But at the same pre-convention Gallup Poll came out in the Miami Herald

the major convention hotels that said: time, the last

showing Rockefeller, the self-proclaimed candidate of the people, running only even with Democrat Hubert Humphrey, and Nixon, derided by the Rockefeller strategists as the candidate of the politicians, two points ahead of

Humphrey. The

went out of the Rockefeller

air

strategy,

even as the spotlights continued to flash their message.

Agnew

arrived at the convention in the

committed tion as

its

certain he

in public to

days of August

un-

still

any candidate, and holding the Maryland delega-

favorite son.

would

first

deliver

But the offer

him

to

nominate Nixon made

to

most of the delegation. Rockefeller had another

Agnew but got nothing from him. Other favorite Romney and Rhodes talked of holding out their delegates to

private meeting with

sons such as

bar a first-ballot Nixon nomination, but the day after Agnew's arrival in

Miami Beach he announced he was bowing out

as

Maryland's favorite son

and endorsing Nixon. That was the end of any glimmerings

Nixon

effort.

On endorsing Nixon, Agnew to be his

running mate. But

the right things for

failure,"

had

said

it

was "not

someone who had

his eye

crime and

on the second

spot.

conflict, frustrated

him

"We

all

are

by fear and

he said to a convention hall curious but certainly not mesmer-

"A

nation torn by war wants a restoration of peace.

plagued by disorder wants a renewal of order.

wants

in the cards" for

speech nominating Nixon, he said

in his

a nation in crisis, victimized by

ized.

for a stop-

a respect for the law.

birth of unity."

22

He

A

sounded

A

nation

A nation haunted by crime

nation wrenched by division wants a re-

as if

he had taken the words right out of

Nixon's mouth.

The sion

next night, Nixon watched his first-ballot nomination on televi-

from

his luxurious suite at the

Hilton Plaza.

The

roll call

dragged on

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

26

until

about 2 A.M., after which he settled in for long deliberations on his

choice of a ticketmate. In 1960, he had performed the same routine, call-

ing in party leaders to "consult" while having decided

Lodge,

But

as a fellow centrist.

was heard. This time around, Nixon wanted he held three separate meetings, the

two with various party

along to pick

1960 Lodge was a well-known, highly

in

regarded and prestigious figure in the party, and

the other

all

first

little

vocal opposition

So

to test his surprise choice.

with staff and chief supporters,

leaders. In each he floated a

name

that

come up from any of them until he casually threw it in. Other governors who were in the Nixon camp, like Walter Hickel of Alaska did not

and Tim Babcock of Montana, were invited

Agnew, whose absence apparently caused no According first

many of

to participants,

meeting had been privy

much

a fellow centrist, so

to

to the first session, but not stir.

the twenty-five attendees at the

Nixon's earlier musings about looking for

of the talk was about middle-road prospects.

Only when Nixon himself offered,

"How about Agnew? That was a

hell

of a nominating speech he made," was the possibility broached, and got no reaction.

Nixon

let

it

the discussion go on for a while longer, until

he summarized what he had heard, which was what he had wanted to hear. "So at that.

your general advice

is

that

I

pick a centrist," he said, leaving

it

23

The second meeting was somewhat smaller and was more of a general schmoozing of members of Congress and state party stalwarts, plus a few outsiders like the evangelist Billy Graham, to make them feel they were part of the process.

Nixon threw out nine

or ten of the

in the first meeting, including the again-absent

names mentioned

Agnew's, with no particu-

emphasis or reaction.

lar

Barry Goldwater was

among

the attendees,

and he reported

on the way out of the room Nixon walked him

around

"'Could you best

No

"He put

five-thirty. live

man you

to the door. It

yes,'

I

is.'"

him,

for that.

if he's

nominee, he had chosen

New

York, a near-

crowd picked, he explained, because "he

don Johnson nuts!")

the

(Goldwater certainly could vouch

sharp-tongued Representative William E. Miller of '

'he's

known?

earlier, as the party's presidential

invisible face in the

told

said.

not

could have. He's been firm, and so what 24

was now

arm around me," Goldwater

with Agnew?' he asked. 'Hell,

vice president ever

Four years

his

later that

drives Lyn-

Who?

Spiro

By

this

time Nixon had clearly convinced himself that his inclination

low

for a centrist of

been

27

was the

profile

right solution.

But because there had

of enthusiasm for Agnew, one insider said

a lack

cided to pause

in the process

meeting, the smallest.

It

and

rest for

was confined

Nixon de-

later,

an hour before holding a third

and House minority

to the Senate

leaders, Everett

Dirksen and Gerald Ford, Republican National Chair-

man Ray

and

Bliss,

few other

a

legislators

and

One

state leaders.

of

Nixon's closest friends, Lieutenant Governor Bob Finch of California,

was

a repeater

The

talk

from the second

session,

and again no Agnew.

once more was of middle-road prospects, and

this

time Nixon

mentioned Governor John Volpe of Massachusetts, Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee and siasm. So

— Agnew. The mentions again drew

little

enthu-

Nixon decided on one more, unannounced, meeting with only

Bob Haldeman,

six insiders: Mitchell;

campaign chief of

the

gressman Rogers Morton, the convention

floor

staff;

Con-

manager; Bob Ellsworth,

the chief delegate hunter; Senator John Tower, his chief southern ally;

and Finch again. In addition to Volpe, Baker, and

thrown

into the pot by

Morton only also a

Nixon

he had

a

Agnew, Morton and Finch were

Nixon. Baker was considered too inexperienced,

congressman, and Finch only a lieutenant governor and

crony. Volpe as an Italian Catholic

lost his

own

primary against

state's

drew some comment, but

a Rockefeller write-in,

and

chances of a Republican's carrying Massachusetts in any event were slim. Finally,

One said.

Nixon asked, according

of the group suddenly spoke up.

"I

"You know him, you know you can

And

handle himself.

think trust

it.

"You

can't

do

it,

Nixon. Finch, highly agitated, jumped up. "No, won't put myself through

into an

to

it."

He

anteroom alone. After

take?"

should be Finch," he

him, you

know

I

it's

he can

nepotism," he told

won't do

it!"

he

cited personal family stresses

a

few minutes of private

down and Nixon behind

inee turned to Morton, a Marylander,

asked him for

I

said. "I

and

said

go through a national campaign. Nixon called him

turned, with Finch calmed

later,

it

should

he doesn't have to be built up nationally." But

Mitchell wouldn't hear of

he was not going

"Who

to a participant,

a

him.

and according

26

to

talk, they re[26]

The nom-

Nixon himself

frank appraisal of Agnew, his former governor.

moment and

Morton thought

a

To which Nixon

replied:

said

Agnew had

a tendency to be "lazy."

"Rog, maybe you would be the better choice for

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

28

me," but Morton told him: "If

would be

the better choice."

Nixon turned

27

Morton and

to

The news was suite at the Eden

So

it's

between

checking once more with Mitchell,

after

Agnew." 28

said: "Call

not a total surprise to

down

Roc,

me and Ted Agnew, Ted

Agnew, who was waiting

Collins Avenue.

Two

in his

nights earlier, he had

informed an old friend, Walter Jones, that he had been told he was one of about ten being considered, and

around

He

noon.

Morton

him

to calling

after the

later

one of four. By the time Morton got

marathon meetings,

new

say:

"Ted, are you sitting

down?"

Nixon got on and broke

The

the news.

Agnew replied. "Good, man who wants to talk to

"Yes,"

conversation was short. Ag-

accepted, saying he was greatly honored, then turned to his wife

Judy and told her: "I'm

When talked to

was the

Strom Thurmond

He

least

That was

29

it."

Nelson Rockefeller learned of Nixon's choice, he told me:

had picked.

"I

and he was describing how they

that night,

said the basis of the selection of Mr.

Agnew was

that he

worst of the candidates that were proposed by Mr. Nixon.

his description."

But Nixon had

campaign press

30

own

his

view. In revealing the surprise choice to the

corps, he said: "All of you

since the early days in

New

president; second, one

who new

know, from having covered

Hampshire, the emphasis

presidency and the need for selecting a

who

a little past

took the phone from his closest aide, Stanley Blair, and heard

because you'd better," Morton said. "I've got a you."

was

it

I

me

put on the vice

man who was, first, qualified

to be

could campaign effectively, and, third, one

new

vice

president, particularly in the area of the problems of the states

and

could assume the

cities."

31

few could

Actually,

responsibilities that

recall his

I

having said

will give the

much

about

it.

At the

mention of Agnew, the crowd's gasp was audible. Nixon, obviously pleased that he had sprung a surprise, strode out, smiling, as the phrase

"Spiro

For later

who?" entered all

of Nixon's emphasis on Agnew's experience in local

wrote

litical

in his

memoirs why he

Nixon

standpoint,"

had devised I

the political lexicon.

for the

said,

November

really

"Agnew election.

could not hope to sweep the South.

fore, to

as the

win the

major

picked him. fit

It

perfectly with the strategy

was absolutely

of the Midwest and West.



fit

we

in the race,

necessary, there-

the border states

Agnew

he

a strictly po-

With George Wallace

entire rimland of the South

states

"From

affairs,

the

bill



as well

geograph-

Who?

Spiro

and

ically,

as a political

my two

that "in

moderate he

never raised

I

he might be considered for the vice presidential spot"

writing in the same

very prospect).

Nixon added

philosophically."

meetings with him before the convention

the possibility that (this after

fit it

29

memoir

that Mitchell

had held out

that

32

Agnew, after watching Nixon's announcement on television, paid a call on him in his suite and then went downstairs for a press conference of his

own. After acknowledging

that he

was "stunned"

fielded a series of questions about his positions his support,

but noted that

"I

on

expect fully that no

He vowed

civil rights.

civil rights

can be

ment of

the condoning of civil disobedience."

The remark was

good encapsulation of what he would be preaching through the

He

paign.

concluded by acknowledging that "the name of Spiro

not a household name.

I

next couple of months." imagination.

as centrist.

was

cam-

the

hope that would be realized beyond

his

Agnew, Nixon had expected

But both conservatives and

who knew

it

will

"stands very strong on

sue in the campaign liberals

that the choice

would be seen

liberals in the party, especially

of Agnew's recent racial complaints, saw

conservatives were elated.

The

a

fall

Agnew is

become one within

hope that

certainly It

a pretty

33

In selecting

those

realis-

achieved without the restoration of order, without the abandon-

tically

The new

he

at the selection,

Reagan praised the

what

—law and

I

think

order."

from Rockefeller

John Lindsay to challenge

on the convention

floor.

Agnew

going

to be the

number-one

to

as a defector

who had

is-

been paid

Nixon, and some of them urged

for the vice-presidential

The Nixon

Ag-

34

viewed the Marylander

off for switching

is

otherwise.

it

selection, saying

nomination

strategists quickly snuffed out that

notion by recruiting Lindsay, and also Percy, to second Agnew's nomination, to sisted,

be put before the hall by Morton.

die-hard liberals per-

Romney to run in was snowed under: Agnew 1,120

however, and persuaded the hapless George

Lindsay's place. votes,

Some

Romney

On

the

first ballot,

he

186.

In his brief acceptance speech after propriately humble.

He

sought to put the best face on what had been a

rare rebuke



nominee

choose his running mate.

to

Nixon had spoken, Agnew was ap-

a floor challenge to the traditional right of the presidential

than a tribute to Romney.

Agnew

elected to cast

it

as

no more

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

30

"As

sensitivity,"

he

said, "I

place in this convention hall tonight. tivated

it

who

animal and a relatively sensitive individual

a political

he will never lose his

were not directed

at

me

in

I

am

hopes

not unaware of what took

am aware

mo-

that the reasons that

any personal sense and were merely

responsive of the opinions of those that took part in the nomination of that great governor of Michigan."

Agnew

then proceeded with fawning gratitude to put himself com-

He

Richard Nixon.

pletely in the service of

vice-presidential

nominee does not come

nomination by virtue of his personality or to generate a

wave of enthusiasm on

his

said he recognized "that a

to the successful fruition of his his attractiveness or his ability

own.

He comes here because he is

man who does all those things on his own, the presidential nominee. I am privileged that that great future president of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, has seen fit to invest in me his confithe selection of the

dence I

to

do the

job.

prove to you that

But I

will not be satisfied, ladies

I

am

and the American people In the next

would prove the second.

in

in unanticipated

though not always

until

November." 35

two months of the

He would

and gentlemen,

capable of doing a job for the Republican Party

presidential campaign, Spiro T.

ways

Agnew

his capability in the first regard, if not

succeed in making himself a household name,

way he had

in the

intended.

On

the last night of the

convention, Nixon's only expressed reservation about his choice was, ironically as matters turned out, about his

William

Safire,

one of

Greek. We've got a

damn, but

to figure a

he's not

speech-making

"Agnew's

his speechwriters:

going

way

to sell

.

.

He

told

shrewd

He can't give a speech worth He wears well. Get him on

him.

to fall apart.

ability.

a tough,

.

press conferences, panel shows, talking about the cities, answering questions,

but no

The

set speeches.

He's no speechmaker." 36

the right decision on his running mate.

cayne

made Key Bis-

next day, Nixon told reporters he had no doubt that he had

retreat, the talk got

around

At

a press party at his

to that surprise selection.

"There

is

a

mysticism about men," the presidential nominee fulsomely pontificated about Agnew. "There

and you know

Nixon has made

is

he's got a

bum

a quiet confidence. it



brains.

choice."

37

You look

This guy has got

a

man

it.

in the eye

If he doesn't,

Who?

Spiro

Between then and election

3

1

November and beyond, Richard Nixon would have cause to ponder that comment. But for now he basked in his own political astuteness in plucking a relative unknown to in.

be his campaign sidekick and, In

if

Frank Sinatra

man, Ted Agnew

in

they succeeded, his presidential stand-

Agnew's winning campaign

song, based on the

day

for

hit

governor

Agnew

sallied forth after

Edmund

S.

together two

men

Born and

was the son of

a

in Baltimore.

thers

As

a relatively

Agnew

boys, both

Nixon

town of Yorba Linda, not

in the

far

the son of the proprietor of a small restaurant

were avid readers and grew up

homes of hardship but not

ciplined

came from

raised at opposite sides of the continent,

small-town grocer

from Los Angeles,

of similar beginnings

strikingly different temperaments, yet at the outset

they seemed to develop a personal rapport. Each start.

Labor Day

Muskie of Maine.

The Republican team brought

humble

of

Hubert H. Humphrey

against the Democratic lineup of Vice President

and backgrounds but

campaign

"My kind

That, indeed, seemed to be Dick Nixon's confident

is."

reading as the team of Nixon and

and Senator

in 1966, his

"Chicago," proclaimed:

in serious, dis-

deprivation, with hard-working fa-

and strong-willed mothers. Reserved by nature, both were

encouraged

to learn the piano,

which

in

time provided them with what

limited entry they had into local and school social circles.

Neither was very

athletic,

though Nixon did become

Whittier College football team, and

Agnew

hood court and took chemistry courses dropped said he

school.

out.

Neither was

much

doubted that young Ted, 38

Thelma

As

for

Nixon,

his shy

Ryan became

"Pat"

scrub on the

played tennis on a neighbor-

Johns Hopkins University but

at

of a ladies' man; an

as

a

Agnew

he was called, ever had a date



men served as junior officers in World War II Xixon in Agnew in the army. Nixon, known in the service as "Nick," was

a reputation as a

officer in a close-in

moved deep Nixon

at

high

part of his personal lore.

a transportation officer in the

winning

in

romance with fellow would-be thespian

Both young the navy,

classmate

South Pacific only on the fringes of combat,

shrewd poker

player.

Agnew was

an infantry

support unit in the Battle of the Bulge that later

into southeastern

Germany. Both attended law

Duke, Agnew taking night courses

more, and both started in active

politics as

a relatively higher level than his

new running

school,

at the University of Balti-

Republicans, though Nixon at mate.

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

32

Nixon's political beginning was the well-known stuff of Hollywood

movie-making; tee for a

out of the navy, he was recruited by a search commit-

just

When

candidate for Congress.

World War

II

General George Patton, the

when

hero, said he wasn't interested, and

the remaining

frontrunner suddenly died, Nixon was selected, and elected to the House of Representatives in a tough Red-baiting campaign against liberal ocrat Jerry Voorhis. vice presidency,

By

contrast,

He then went on to the

59

and

his party's presidential

Agnew had

Battle of the Bulge, he started his

own

United States Senate and the

nomination

in 1960.

a rougher climb. After seeing

resumed night law school

small law firm.

When

it

failed,

He

ance claims investigator and adjuster.

Dem-

combat

in the

then

in Baltimore,

he took a job as an insur-

answered

newspaper adver-

a

tisement and became an assistant personnel manager for a local

supermarket chain. Recalled into the

army

in the

Korean War, he served

at

camps

in

Maryland and Georgia and escaped another overseas assignment when

army acknowledged it had mistakenly called up an overseas combat veteran, and released him. Back at the supermarket chain, he handled

the

petty tasks that included dealing with shoplifters. Restless, he briefly

joined a local law firm and then started another of his

own

represented the meat-cutters and butchers' union in

negotiations with

Baltimore area

winning strong contracts

stores,

went back

In the mid-1950s, he

Johns Hopkins, took a Baltimore County

new law

for 500 black fishermen.

partner,

and moved out

to

Towson, the

seat.

The move marked

his

immersion

in

in a successful charter

suburban

life,

complete with

at the piano.

to

and

Soon he got involved

reform effort for the county and switched

from Democratic

PTA

nights, Baltimore Colts worship,

neighborhood parties with Ted often

ter the local

which he

to night school to study accounting at

and Kiwanis attendance, bowling

tration

its

in

Republican on the advice of a

his regis-

local judge.

Af-

GOP won control of the county council, he was appointed

in

1957 to the county board of appeals, which reviewed zoning decisions, at a salary of $3,600,

and became chairman the next

In 1960, as Richard

dency,

who

Agnew

year.

40

Nixon was running unsuccessfully

for the presi-

ran for a county circuit court judgeship; also like Nixon,

subsequently ran for governor in California and

was down but not

out.

Though he

lost again,

Agnew

also suffered another loss, in a bid for a

Spiro

county council

seat,

Agnew was

Who?

33

picked by the Republican Party as a

proven good-government candidate and was elected Baltimore County

among

executive, backing split in

1966, ate

other things a public-accommodations

Democratic ranks benefited him

when Agnew

bill.

A

another one in

in that race, as did

chose to run for governor. Campaigning as a moder-

with a record (disputed by

tor in the field of civil rights,

liberal

Democrats)

as

an effective concilia-

he supported a housing-discrimination ban.

The Maryland Democrats self-immolated

in a

three-man primary fight

which Mahoney, the ultraconservative perennial candidate, emerged

in

with the nomination. Democratic-majority Maryland was appalled, and

Agnew

anybody-but-Mahoney Republican nominee was swept

as the

into the governor's chair.

As

similar as the

41

new Republican running mates were were strikingly different

tentious beginnings, they

in their

in style

unpre-

and tempera-

ment. Nixon from his earliest years was a bundle of insecurities and self-doubts that were manifested in a transparent inferiority complex,

which he endured through complishments

in public

a lifelong struggle belying his impressive ac-

life.

While he was outwardly

cordial in public,

he was suspicious of everyone, friend and foe alike, and shunned personal confrontation. a distance,

He

preferred the comfort of addressing large crowds from

and there was

little

brilliance or poetry in his oratory.

He

horred one-on-one meetings except with his most trusted aides, and he

most always delegated the delivery of unpleasant or

He was to

afflicted

difficult

abal-

messages.

with a debilitating sense of inferiority that he often tried

masquerade with tough

talk in private.

He was self-conscious about his He seemed to question

appearance, awkwardness, and ill-at-ease nature. his

own

manliness and was overly impressed by big, handsome, and com-

manding

males, almost to the point of envy for their presence, their confi-

dence, and their easy assertiveness.

genuine humor, or

much

He was

largely a

man

without

of an ability to appreciate that of others. His

jokes were often self-deprecatory but delivered self-consciously, and in at-

tempts to put others

at ease,

he usually

failed.

Agnew, by contrast, brimmed with a self-confidence and self-esteem that enabled him to accept with alacrity his steady climb up the ladder of public success. Even as Nixon's own successes never seemed to convince him adequately of his own worth, Agnew's merely confirmed to him his personal assurance that he could handle whatever

came

his

way. Nixon,

34

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

for all his efforts,

was physically uncoordinated and

dresser;

Agnew was

ority,

He was

a clothes horse, his

immaculate

and

thinning hair always plastered in

and not only did not shirk confrontation but invited

manded.

in dress

He

often aloof even to the point of exuding a sense of superi-

the sound of his

the

and was

grooming, with

fastidious in his

nondescript

smooth, elegant, and supremely sure of himself.

carried himself erectly

place.

a

He was

own

voice,

it.

He

and the extravagant vocabulary

it

loved

com-

head-strong and unwavering in his convictions and at

same time intolerant toward those who disagreed with him, and

often oblivious of their feelings. If there

eye to eye, tors. It

was

was one thing about which these very strange bedfellows saw it

was

in their loathing of the press

a shared repulsion that in a short

and

television

commenta-

time would be a centerpiece

of their political message, voiced most aggressively by

Agnew and

lauded

by Nixon the harsher and more pointedly his running mate delivered

But regarding many other matters and circumstances,

it.

their differences

bore seeds of conflict that would be obvious to insiders as their political

marriage ran

its

course.

For now, however, they approached the

fall

cam-

paign with great optimism, against a Democratic team already burdened

by internal dissension over a stalemated war in Vietnam and the discredited president forced to the sidelines in large part

by his failure to end

it.

Chapter

3

NIXON'S NIXON

Almost from the

start in the fall campaign of 1968, Republican vice-presidential nominee Spiro Agnew gave the man at the top of the ticket reasons to second-guess himself on his choice. For openthe press reaction to his nomination

ers,

pected.

The

press often cast

him

that

the right of King Lear,"

tle to

to

Eden Roc

Agnew complained

speech,

rights record in

"This

is

hard

modation

Maryland

as

to take for a

who

referred to as a bigot. civil rights

position

I

sees

that

I

to

nomination and

appear that I'm a

lit-

himself the right

said, "reserved to

him

off on a long defense of his civil

guy who passed the

think

And

I

set

made

his

first local

Mason-Dixon

public-accom-

he

line,"

the sting of discrimination, it

said. it's

"For the

hard

should be perfectly obvious that

to be if

my

were what has been depicted, John Lindsay would

my

since Mr.

being

day after

Baltimore County executive and governor.

felt

never have seconded

paign,

"it's

legislation south of the

son of an immigrant

ex-

to be.

suite the

who, he

behead people." The thought

what Nixon

at all

as right-wing extremist, not the centrist

Nixon and Agnew himself perceived him In an interview in his

was not

Nixon

would never be

condone violence."

nomination and neither would Chuck Percy.

my

role in the cities as vital

effective in those areas.

during the cam-

But that doesn't mean

1

These remarks revealed not only Agnew's thin skin

politically

but also

his

determination not to be a drag on Richard Nixon's presidential bid.

As

a political figure

who had come from nowhere, and

as

he had

made 35

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

36

Agnew's gratitude

clear in his acceptance speech, a psychological

The

first

weight on him

to

Nixon was deep, and

campaign began.

as the fall

order of business after the convention, and a courtesy

Nixon and Agnew on President Lyndon Johnson an intensive planning meeting of two weeks

in

at his

by

call

Texas ranch, was

San Diego,

nearby

at a

re-

Mission Bay. In keeping with Nixon's microscopic review of

sort called

his failed 1960 presidential effort,

misjudgments, Nixon and

with an eye to correct

its

mistakes and

had already decided that

his strategists

tighter

communication between the presidential and vice-presidential campaigns

would be imperative. The notion had nothing that time

had not

yet been selected,

whose 1960 performance was rated an interview is

in

Oregon before

the specter of

would

1

960."-

as

and everything

to

that time,

travel with the vice-presidential

it

"Haunting

was

nominee

this

settled that

to

at

do with Lodge,

wanting. Nixon himself had said

the convention:

Around

do with Agnew, who

to

make

in

campaign

John Sears

sure any gaffes

could quickly be assessed and dealt with by "the mother plane" flying

Nixon around

the country.

At the same time, Nixon was mindful of the enced

as

Eisenhower's running mate in 1952,

ers scandal

broke and

when

finally

the so-called

Check-

knock him off the

Ike's strategists plotted to

Although Eisenhower

he had experi-

difficulties

embraced him, he remembered

ticket.

that

it

had

taken a long time to smooth things over. Nixon was determined that he

would not to Sears,

treat his

running mate

whenever Agnew made

time to time and

tell

in the

same shabby

a mistake

him, 'Don't sweat

it,

fashion.

Nixon would

at

Agnew

3

joined the

Mission Bay. According to Pat Buchanan, his high opinion of the

new running mate was the

him "from

you're doing a fine job.'"

Nevertheless, there were signs of trouble soon after

team

call

According

campaign and

not shared by two of the most important figures in

later in the

Nixon administration



chief of staff

Bob

Haldeman and especially domestic affairs adviser John Ehrlichman. They grilled Agnew intensively on a range of issues and were not impressed. The Mission Bay sessions "did not seem to go very well," Buchanan recalled later. Agnew, he said, was not seen then as "a firebrand," rather as merely "a tough law-and-order guy, though a progressive

Republican on the environment and things

start,

Ehrlichman and Agnew appeared

to be

like that."

on

4

But from the

a collision course, be-

cause Ehrlichman considered domestic affairs to be his bailiwick and

Nixon's Nixon

Nixon had pointedly Agnew's experience

37

said publicly that he intended to take

advantage of

as a governor.

There never was any intention that Nixon and Agnew would campaign together, and they didn't. So the opportunity for any real bonding for the

two men on the road (such

between Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore) never presented

itself

occurred years later

as conspicuously Bill

Clinton and running mate

was purposely arranged. Nixon was

or

notorious loner, and besides there never was any notion that

Agnew would

be real partners in the campaign, or

running mate

in 1952

saw Agnew

as his

later.

and 1956, Nixon had learned

number two

in the

same

a

Nixon and

As Eisenhower's and he

his "place,"

light, regardless

of what he

said to the contrary.

A major factor that conditioned the use of Agnew in the campaign was the thought that he could be an effective counter to Wallace in the South.

That was

especially so as his views

his experience in ter the

King

assassination.

would depend on whether fellow

who was

that time

"We

had emerged from

racial violence

the

always knew," Sears said

number two man was

how we'd

to the right, as to

anyway, was beginning

to the right,

on

Baltimore with the black leaders in the wake of riots af-

even though he had

office [against segregationist

to

a

use him."

little

"that

later,

to the left or a

Agnew, he

said,

this

background of how he had come

Mahoney]. So things

could be used to hold the party together in

At the same time, to shore torate.

up Agnew's

For

the

its

to

were

like schedule

who

conservative wing, and

5

Nixon

strategists

decided

it

was

also imperative

centrist credentials in the eyes of the rest of the elec-

this reason,

on

Midwest, where he spoke

his first

to the

campaign swing he was sent

to the

annual Veterans of Foreign Wars Con-

vention in Detroit and addressed not the Vietnam at

"by

appear to be more and more a fellow

reevaluated, and he started right out of the box viewed as a fellow

helpful against Wallace."

it

War

but social justice

home.

"You know how strongly

I

feel

about the absolute necessity for respect

of law," he told the predominantly white audience, "but

whole answer. With law and order must come nity.

Law and

innocent



order must

not, to

that almost

mean

some people,

sounded

as if

to all of

justice

that's

not the

and equal opportu-

our people the protection of the

the cracking of black skulls." In

words

he were lecturing himself for his outburst

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

38

against the Baltimore black leaders,

man

selfishness,

we have

our black countrymen.

We

act to violence.

Agnew

need

to

respond

must aggressively move

of reprisal, but out of certain faith that

Agnew

to conscience rather

for progress

right."

it is

to

than re-

—not out of

fear

6

Iowa, he was taken to look

a lack of political sensitiv-

Nixon camp. At

that caused concern in the

mind

and hu-

did a good job with set speeches and texts, but from the outset

some of his extemporaneous remarks revealed ity

frailty

minds and our consciences

too often shut our

We

our

said: "In

at the pigs.

farm

a

in

Cedar Rapids,

Apparently they brought to

his

the "nomination" of a porker at the Democratic presidential con-

vention during a Yippies anti-war demonstration. Trying to be funny, he

wondered aloud whether "they came from Chicago" and, addressing one of the pigs, said, "Hello, Alice." Then, apparently thinking he might be offending

human

him, and said

"it

Alices, he explained

to

was the

first

name

humor nor

ladies.

striking a defensive pose, however,

testers his favorite target.

He blamed

said. "It

going can't

when

was

I

was

to be able to

you

do

is

link" between rebellious students

News's Meet the

Communist

Press,

naturally

young pro-

me

lay [sic]

New

wanted

to

do

a lot

parents wouldn't

let

me,"

the hippies and the Yippies are

run a bus, they can't serve in a government

kick policemen." In one speech in

the

tell

my

do the job of helping America,

lathe in a factory. All they can

NBC

to

an "overly permissive society" for

that age, too, but

that simple. If

came

the offensive, with

tolerating an "unconscious anarchy" in the country. "I

he

came

7

Agnew, and before long he was back on

of silly things

that

could just as well have been Mabel," thus doubling the

crop of potential offended

Neither

it

down

I'll tell

office,

in the

you

this:

They

they can't run a

park and

sleep, or

York, he said he saw a "definite

on campuses and the communists.

On

he charged that they were "under control of

Party U.S.A. or of Moscow." 8

When Hubert Humphrey at one point called Nixon "a cold warrior," a rather mild reference for the time, Agnew went after him. "If you've been

soft

on

inflation, soft

on communism, and

soft

on law and order over

the years," he said, "I guess other people look hard."

communism,"

a carryover

The words

"soft

on

from the Red-baiting of Senator Joe McCarthy

among Democrats. Agnew made it more jarring to them by saying: "When you see the similarities between now and before the war, Humphrey is beginning to look a lot

a

decade

earlier, hit a particularly jarring

note

Nixon's Nixofj

39

Chamberlain. Maybe that makes Mr. Nixon look more

like Neville

Winston Churchill."

like

9

Comparing Humphrey to the architect of the Munich pact of appeasement of Hitler, and Nixon to Britain's savior from Nazism, made the Democrats apoplectic, to the consternation of Nixon strategists who were working hard tion.

But

own man's

bury their

to

Agnew went

He

blissfully on.

to "build these catch phrases into

reputation for character assassina-

accused reporters of attempting

something they don't mean," and

in-

sisted he had "no desire to go back to the Joe McCarthy witch-hunting

days."

The

When

you

reaction to those days, he said, "has been an overreaction.

see

realistic to say

here."

communist involvement it

can't

happen

here.

A

all

over the world,

certain

measure of

pretty un-

it is it is

happening

10

The more Agnew

talked, the

more

it

was

like striking a

match

to gaso-

line,

but he wouldn't back down. In a Washington news conference, he

said

Humphrey seemed

to be for "peace at

from Chamberlain's infamous reference Czechoslovakia over to Hitler.

He and

any price," not that different

to "peace in

Nixon, he

our time" in giving

said,

were "not going

to

be squishy soft as this administration has been" on crime and "knowing

your enemies," adding: can't hit

about

my 11

it."

blow, but

team

guess by nature I'm a counterpuncher.

"I

in the groin

and expect

me

to stand here

You

and smile

Calling Nixon a "cold warrior" didn't seem a particularly low

Agnew

The Nixon

defending himself characterized

in

strategists

as such.

saw nothing wrong with Agnew's backing up

the head of the Republican ticket, but the

made them

it

nervous. After

all,

one of their

way he had chosen

own prime

to

do

so

challenges was to

counter Nixon's clinging reputation as a political hatchet

man who had

communism in his climb to the poPinning communism on his opponents had won his

alleged Democratic associations with litical

stratosphere.

House of Representatives and then in the Senate, and as Dwight Eisenhower's campaign hit man he had used the same general seat first in the

down the whole Democratic Party. He was the hard-hitting campaigner who accused Harry Truman's secretary of state, Dean Achetheme

to

run

son, of "color-blindness threat,"

and who

called

cratic presidential



a

form of pink eye toward the communist

Truman, Acheson, and

nominee, Adlai Stevenson,

ples" of their party.

12

the 1952

and 1956 Demo-

"traitors to the

high princi-

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

4o

As

the old

Nixon was busy

new Nixon

selling a

to the voters, the last

thing he needed was his running mate reminding voters of the old.

McGrory of

the Washington Star wrote that "the governor of

has been attempting to prove that the old Richard in

H Spiro T. Agnew."

The "Tricky Dick"

paign needed to keep in the his

own

replica into the

closet,

label

Nixon

is

Maryland

alive

was one skeleton

and here was

his ticketmate

open when the campaign had barely

Mary

and well

cam-

his

dragging

started.

Agnew, however, seemed oblivious that in raising the communism issue he was behaving like a Nixon clone. "Don't get left with the impres-

my campaign

sion that reporters.

14

going

is

to be a

communist hunt," he

told

But two Republican leaders, Senate Majority Leader Everett

Dirksen and House Majority Leader Gerald Ford, immediately

dis-

Humphrey, saying they saw "no evidence" of the charge that he was "soft on communism." Surprisingly, nothing was heard from Nixon or his strategists on "the mother plane" about Agnew's remarks. The presidential nominee was tanced themselves from the remarks on

holding to his personal assurance to his running mate that he wouldn't be held on a short leash the

But

way Eisenhower's managers had gripped him.

as traveling reporters

ences to

Humphrey,

continued to pepper

Agnew

about

his refer-

the candidate himself began to get worried, and so

did Sears. His Nixon-assigned watcher finally told

Agnew

in his

motel

room that it might be best if he issued some kind of apology to Humphrey and put the matter behind him. So Agnew called a news conference and did exactly that

"The remarks President

I

made



in his fashion.

that have been widely quoted concerning Vice

Humphrey must

be examined in the context they were of-

fered," he began. After reviewing the

exchange between himself and

Humphrey prompted by Humphrey's labeling of Nixon as a "cold warrior," Agnew said: "If I left the impression that I think the vice president was not a loyal American, I want to rectify that. I think he is a man of great integrity and that,

he continued:

I

have a high respect for him." But not

"I

don't agree with

the comparison to Mr.

him on every

pletely valid comparison.

I

made

his cry for

I

with

and the use of

think

is

a

com-

think Mr. Chamberlain considered himself to

be a very loyal Englishman. There were

time he

issue,

Chamberlain and Mr. Churchill

satisfied

many

people in England at the

peace at any price that believed this was a

Nixon's Nixon

proper cry to make. parison stands."

When

He made

"Had

said no.

I

on communism"

sympathy

think the com-

I

American

in

politics,

ever realized the effect that this expression

would have shunned

said, "I

good conscience and

in

him whether he was cognizant of the deroga-

a reporter asked

tory connotation of "soft

he

it

15

it

Had

to inquisitorial procedures."

he

would have turned

five

would have,"

record

known

me

have been interpreted "in some way to cast 1968," he said, "I

My

like the plague.

his

is

McCarthy of

somersaults to avoid saying

had heard nothing from Nixon or any of his aides to retract or soft-pedal

chosen him, he

judgment and been one

to

said,

tact

gly

"because he thought

and decency

go the low road

said 'squishy soft'

and

I

am

reporters

were not

I

have

I

had

in politics.

I

want

not proud of I

it.

doubt

if

said."

he

satisfied, particularly

16

said he is

Now,

I

any

Nixon had

sufficient inherent

to get off the

The

He

to indicate "there

to avoid these things.

and wobbly' [about Nixon] and

The

anything

it."

Humphrey were

not part of any "grand strategy" in the Republican campaign.

me

not one of

remark would

as the Joe

Nixon's running mate insisted that his comments on

desire for

Agnew

good

have never

low road.

...

I

vice president said 'wigis

proud of that."

17

about the Chamberlain

Humphrey sought "peace of hope by Humphrey that

comparison. Asked what evidence he had that at

any price,"

American

Agnew

said that an expression

forces could start leaving

Vietnam

in early 1969

that if he "fully expected to achieve those ends without a

Vietnam

to protect the integrity

forces did start leaving

the

of our forces." 18 In

Vietnam without such

Nixon administration's Vietnamization

a

amounted

move by North

fact, in

1969 such

move by Hanoi,

as part

Agnew's comments, Sears

the matter had already been discussed with the vice-presidential

and had been handled. Haldeman

said

of

policy.

A call finally came to Sears from Nixon's chief of staff, Haldeman. fore he could raise questions about

to

no more about

it.

told

Be-

him

nominee

Nixon person-

commitment to Agnew not to look over his shoulder; there was evidence he liked what his running mate was saying. When one of his speechwriters, William Safire, told Nixon at one

ally

not only was holding to his

point that columnists were sharply criticizing his running mate, he shot back:

"You know why

where

it

hurts."

19

they're screaming at

Agnew? Because

he's hitting

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

42

Soon, however, his running mate demonstrated again that such inde-

pendence was

At another news conference

politically foolhardy.

many

Chicago, a reporter observed that there weren't

crowds greeting

Agnew and

"That hasn't occurred

moving Italian,

in a

and

the people

crowd,

I

there's a

and I'm

to

asked him whether he was

there's a Polack.'

just glad that they're there

was

that?

am

I

so unbelievable

up.

At

friendly."

and

slur

the

first

meet 20

told

remark

reporters, Robert Shogan, then of

Agnew

right

some weren't sure he'd

and asked

said

it,"

colleagues.

Shogan

recalled

"And if he did, was he kidding? How do you handle a thing like Nobody knew how to handle it. But here it came right on the heels

of 'squishy guy,

concerned.

just trying to

and that they're

knew he had screwed

Newsweek^, wasn't sure he had heard

I'm

had used an ethnic

that he

went unreported. One of the traveling

"It

at all

don't look and say, 'Well, there's a Negro, there's an

Greek and

entourage privately he

later.

blacks in the

me," he answered. "Very frankly, when

At once, Agnew recognized his

in

soft.' It

we suddenly

head. ...

It

said

started to ooze out. realized,

who was

was

It

saying anything that

something about him."

came

a short leash

in clusters.

all

kinds of civil disobedience, prompting a question whether

a television panel interview in Chicago, he

Mahatma Gandhi, Henry Thoreau, and

King" had practiced

it.

"Let

me

into his

began cropping

up

that "Jesus,

This was a

21

More examples of why Agnew deserved

On

a thrill a minute.

condemned it

wasn't so

Dr. Martin Luther

distinguish between those cases," he an-

swered. "The people you have mentioned did not operate in a free society"

—which

certainly

would have been

a surprise to

After more of the same,

"the

Ted Agnew needed more help

in finding the

would make sure old

mother plane"

ministration veteran

who had gone on

campaigns. Although the decision cent

Agnew

rescue operation. Indeed, columnists

wrote that Hess was embarked on

decided that

Humphrey

remarks.

An

assigned, an Eisenhower ad-

work

to dispatch

flaps, his arrival at this

well with the proud

to

finally

22

high road he had said he

to travel after the fuss over his

Nixon speechwriter, Stephen Hess, was

Thoreau and King.

for Nixon's 1960

and 1962

Hess had pre-dated the

period had

all

re-

the appearances of a

Rowland Evans and Robert Novak

just

such an

effort,

Agnew. After delivering one Hess

which did not

sit

speech, prompting

Nixon's Nixon

New

Yor/{

used a

new

Homer

Times reporter

Agnew had

Bigart to write that

indeed

candidate refused to read any further Hess efforts.

text, the

arrival

43

was reduced

The

Agnew

to writing erudite position papers that

routinely approved but, Hess speculated, never bothered to read.

Agnew's

staff was

peopled with old Maryland associates with

whom he

spent most of his time on the plane. Only occasionally would he venture

out of the front cabin to the back, where the reporters,

many

of them vet-

erans of his gubernatorial stint in Annapolis, sat and worked, and with

whom

he had cool relations. Attempts

that eventually

would reach Hawaii,

would be going swimming

there.

side of his waist, said no, he didn't

remark seemed out of character

On

at levity usually fell flat.

a reporter

asked him whether he

Agnew, pinching want

a trip

on each

a roll of flat

to reveal his "love handles."

for the proper

The

and distant candidate, do-

him and

ing nothing to dispel the climate of discomfort between

the trav-

eling press.

That atmosphere only deepened

a

few days

later

when

the

Agnew

party, after

an overnight stay in Las Vegas, headed west on the campaign

The

night before, several of the traveling reporters had stayed up

plane.

gambling

late

in

one of the casino hotels and were sleeping off their

folly

when Agnew strolled back drinking a cup of coffee. One of the snoozers was Gene Oishi, a stocky native-born Japanese-American who covered him

in

Baltimore and Annapolis for the Baltimore Sun.

the sleeping reporter

and

said to another reporter,

Washington Post: "What's the matter with the

answered: "He was up

and

all

said to the candidate: 23

Agnew." In

a

whether he had such

At

first

Jap?"

night in the casino."

With

"That was

city

moment, Agnew walked

Other reporters were a

Dick

fat

a

startled by

nickname

the incident generated

and between them and the

Homan

Homan,

at

of The

surprised,

that, Oishi

you took us

awoke to,

Mr.

off.

Agnew's remark. They asked Oishi

in

Annapolis, and he said he did not.

some

Agnew

wicked

Agnew glanced

light banter

staff.

among

At one point

the reporters

a reporter sent a

"Agnew is a thinSome of Oishi's col-

note up to the candidate's compartment that said: skinned, squishy-soft Greek with love handles."

24

leagues wanted to write about the episode, but he discouraged them,

considering the remark merely a bumbling attempt to be funny or friendly.

But when the entourage reached Los Angeles, Oishi phoned

his

wife and mentioned Agnew's crack, and she was furious. So he agreed to

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

44

Homan

and

have other reporters write about

it

question to Oishi in the very

paragraph of his

But

it

page.

and

was picked up by

last

said writing about

story, inside the paper.

Honolulu paper and splashed across

a

was sophomoric, others

it

—being beaten on

Some of the Agnew that Oishi

had

a story

ill

were not buying. The more some of

more they

them thought about

the incident, the insensitivity, part

analysis in print.

going out of its way never

felt

Agnew

in

believed

turn

felt

the

Agnew's explanation

Nixon continued had

that he

a

It

was unfortunate

for

is

molehill.

was hardening

called Oishi "the fat Jap" in a friendly

a friend

Agnew



they are

all

When news

enemies."

that his traveling party

One

win

con-

is

25

was now

of them,

in

Demo-

Spark Matsunaga, lectured him on the House

cratic representative

was

him. In reference to

to reassure

Hawaii, heavily populated by Japanese-Americans.

that "one does not

press

mountain out of a

way, Nixon sent him a revealing note: "Dear Ted: cerned, nobody in the press

was another

accompanying

particularly kindly to the press, his attitude

into hostility, even as

it

of a pattern that warranted men-

him by making

to "get"

in.

and Agnew had merely expressed con-

example of Agnew's

and

that competitive

felt

dictated joining

front

its

as casual banter

going into damage-control mode, suggested

staff,

looked

really



cern, but the eyewitness reporters

If he

burying Agnew's

so,

While some of the reporters dismissed the remark

pressure

tion

did

floor

friends by insulting people of other racial back-

grounds, particularly through the mouthings of racial prejudice." 26

There was some discussion within the Agnew party on whether he should continue the Hawaii so advised the

Nixon

plane,

visit.

Sears

recommended

some island-hopping, Agnew walked back fat

wasn't funny,

Jap this morning?"

Agnew was moved

He ended

my words

an insult

ous ethnic

slur] to

at a lavish

my

own

by apologizing "to

so

and

lecture

plane for

and

other reporters told

said:

him

it

luau on one of the islands to sensitivity as a

any

who might

boy

to

being

have read

in

to their Japanese ancestry, or [referring to the previ-

any

their Polish ancestry.

you've misread

a smaller

again, spotted Oishi,

When

deliver another long defense, citing his called a Greek.

do

and there was no disagreement or

from Nixon. Incredibly, the next morning aboard

"How's the

that he

.

.

who might have read into my words an Those who have misread my words, I .

heart."

27

insult to

only say

Nixon's Nixon

Later, however, at a

45

fence-mending party

for the traveling press, the

Agnew had made

sparring began again over an attack

San Francisco

in

against the appointment of Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, once

convicted of attempted murder, as a part-time lecturer at the University

The

of California.

conversation spread to the homosexuality of Oscar

Wilde and another flippant Agnew remark.

It

Agnew

or his staff attempted to

over,

sulted.

On

smooth things

Agnew

return to the mainland,

Washington and

Club

in

there

had been

so

much

have Dick's permission

seemed

spoke

that every time

more controversy

at the

re-

National Press

said in yet another attempt at levity that since

speculation "on the

to reveal

signed the task of insulting

all

my

Nixon-Agnew

strategy,

I

secret role in our battle plans. I'm as-

groups equally." 28

Through all of Agnew's early campaign tribulations, it had to be remembered that Richard Nixon not only had selected him as his running mate but

had gone out on

also

a

limb

in boasting

about his

own

ability to

made in the Maryland governor. He was not at this stage inclined to tear him down, even as his principal strategists were concerned about Agnew's bloopers and demonstrated insensitivity. Nixon wrote later: "No one felt worse than Agnew about such embarrassing misjudgments, and I admired him for the way size

up

and what

a winner,

a great choice

he had

he stood up to the vicious onslaught of national

political

exposure

cruel cartoons, the slashing attacks, the stinging commentaries.

reassure him, telling

him to get At one

at

me."

point,

him

that these efforts

were mainly

a

I



the

tried to

way of using

29

Buchanan, who liked Agnew, volunteered

from the Nixon plane

to the

Agnew

and Haldeman agreed. "Nixon was

to switch

plane to help him out, and Nixon just giving the

same speech day

in

and day out," Buchanan remembered. "He kept up with the same game plan and sort of froze the ball and coasted." So Buchanan

needed

there.

When

the press corps

he got to the

you could cut with

Agnew

felt

he wasn't

plane, he said, "the hostility of

a knife."

Buchanan found Agnew

depressed mood. "The idea that he was a drag on the ticket very

bothered him," Buchanan recalled, "but

and Nixon asked

me

to

come back."

30

we

got

in a

much

some of that behind him,

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

46

The month

of September had been

and he had not weathered

national campaigner,

main reasons Nixon had chosen him his conviction that

a testing

Agnew

ground it

for

Agnew

as a

But one of the

well.

was

for the ticket, as already noted,

could be an effective counter against the

strength of independent candidate George Wallace in the South. Wallace,

however, was also demonstrating unexpected

had come

the North, and the time

law-and-order rhetoric there

to

make

appeal in areas of

political

Agnew's hard-hitting

use of

counter the

as well, to

former Al-

feisty

abama governor.

Agnew

In the campaign's efforts to undercut Wallace's strength,

toured northern and border blue-collar enclaves, focusing likely to generate

side of

support for the Republican

Milwaukee and

ticket.

now on

He went

to the south

castigated student protesters as "spoiled brats

never have had a good spanking" and "take their

In

his

phrases,

own.

Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Jack-

sonville, Florida, all in potential

elected president. In

all

Agnew urged voters candidate who couldn't be

Wallace country,

not to waste their ballots on Wallace as a

these places, he sold himself not as a centrist but

unabashedly as a right-of-center candidate with criticized

Muskie,

his

Democratic counterpart

ing watched idly while young ior,

who

from Gandhi and

tactics

money from Daddy." Wallace himself might have admired such which were not unlike

targets

men burned

he said, was "inherent in the

total

a hard-line message.

in the race, for

their draft cards.

He

once hav-

Such behav-

permissive atmosphere that

is

sweeping the country, the atmosphere that allows irresponsible conduct." Addressing the poor and youthful dissenters

in Indianapolis,

he

let

them

know who would be in charge: "We will listen to your complaints. You may give us your symptoms [but] we will make the diagnosis and we, the establishment, for which make no apologies for being part of, will imI

plement the cure."

As

who

31

a diagnostician

didn't

asked why,

of urban problems, however,

make house in light

At

a press

brunch

of his claim to be an urban

into big-city ghettos. ticular gain to be

calls.

He

Agnew was

a doctor

in Pittsburgh,

specialist,

he was

he didn't venture

responded that he didn't think "there's any par-

made by debating on

street corners.

.

.

.

You

don't learn

from people suffering from poverty, but from experts who have studied the problem."

Nixon's Nixon

A

couple of days

the

later,

47

same question came up

many

share of low-income and racial ghettos. "I've been into said,

"and

some

to

extent, I'd have to say this: If you've seen

you've seen them

...

all.

I

don't think

showboat appearances through ghetto areas about the problems of the

cities."

32

he had said on the day Nixon chose clared that he

prove

to

I

its

of them," he

one

imperative that

it is

with

in Detroit,

city I

slum,

conduct

know something

The response was a far cry from what him as his running mate, when he de-

would "welcome the chance"

to

run

in

Northern ghettos.

Such remarks sent off more rockets among Nixon's

strategists,

but not

Nixon himself, who saw Agnew as a lightning rod drawing the flashes away from him. "The manure wasn't sticking to him," an aide said later, "and Agnew was becoming pretty popular in the South." Agnew himself was upset because in press comparisons with Muskie, he was coming off as a bumbler and buffoon. On Sundays, when the campaigning tapered off or came to a complete halt, Nixon would phone Agnew and tell him not to sweat it, that he was still Nixon's man. for

33

By

this

son for

time in the campaign

Agnew

political

not to

importance.

self

on

the

Nixon— Agnew

visit

It

late

October



there

the slums, or for that matter

was the same reason

that

was another

anywhere

ticket, for all

Humphrey

rising

Nixon camp was the Wallace

safe plurality lead at

and riding

Agnew's verbal miscues did not dictate

it.

The

tions of his failed 1960

certainly

it

would be the

in

as

in the

beneficiary of

one aide put

it

out."

encouraged that approach, but they

driving force behind

campaign,

showing

The assumption

and therefore the smart strategy was, sails

of

about 43 percent, with

slipping.

that the Republican ticket

"pulling in the

else

of Agnew's gaffes, had settled into a

somewhat but Wallace

fall off

rea-

was keeping Nixon him-

a very confined travel schedule: the public-opinion polls

modest but seemingly

later,



which

it

was Nixon's vivid

in his

own

recollec-

considered view he

had been over-exposed and over-worked, with dawn-to-late-night speaking and hand-shaking that exhausted him. Furthermore, undertaking so

many

events each day did not accentuate the positive; that

Humphrey's eighteen-hour days daily schedule had shown him in

in this a

is,

like

campaign, Nixon's long 1960

mix of

effective

and

ineffective ap-

pearances, giving the press and television a wide choice to feature.

Too

often,

Nixon and

his strategists

concluded

in retrospect,

and

in their

negative appraisal of the news media as the enemy, that the candidate's

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

48

weakest performances had received the coverage. This time around, they decided,

and

it

was

a single carefully crafted speech,

reducing the raw material for news

And

coverage to what the campaign wanted. unpredictable

few daily events

better to limit Nixon's exposure to only a

Agnew under

wraps, that was

if this

approach also kept the

to the good.

all

Not much was said or written at the time about the Nixon strategy of a leaner, more disciplined campaign. Over on the Agnew campaign the traveling reporters suspected that "the

mother plane" had heard enough

Agnew

of the would-be vice president's scatter-shots.

aides

were accused

by reporters of playing "Hide the Greek," though Nixon did not order Sears recalled later: ride

it

out; not

stances,

and

let

"We

sort of got locked in at this point, to just try to

do anything the

it.

appear under very controlled circum-

flashy,

Democrats do what they pleased." 34

Typical was a trip that had started in Pittsburgh.

The Agnew

party

spent the night at the Pittsburgh Hilton, then canceled the next day's

The accompanying

events and stayed indoors.

reporters were told the

candidate was busy with "staff work." As Sears later recalled all

day

in the hotel until night,

way out of town next morning troit airport,

five

left

and arrived

where we made

hundred yards over

then went to

Cobo Hall

We spent the to take

The

some

Pittsburgh

back,

a fast

move

we went

in his

sat

bed and the at the

in the cars, a distance

to the airport motel,

where we

De-

of about

sat until night;

gave a speech, got out and came back.

for a rally,

home

for the

weekend on Thursday

35

visit

was described

in the local

paper as a "non-day,"

and the traveling reporters griped incessantly about the

new

to

of the afternoon

in the early part

night and then flew rest."

"We

then got into a motorcade and motored

Then we came

for a rally.

it,

compartment on the

plane.

On

one

trip to

isolation of

Corpus

Ag-

Christi,

Texas, devoid of scheduled campaign events over the weekend, Agnew's press secretary,

Herb Thompson, was

conference there. in jest:

"Herb, you go

with

us, there's

once

in a

a nice

He went tell

to Sears

demands

besieged with

with the plea and was

those bastards that

if

news

told, only half

they want to

good food and drink on the plane, and

for a

we'll

come along drop down

while and get a night's sleep at a good hotel. Tell them we've got

weekend planned

fishing trip planned for

noon, and on

for

them

them

in

Corpus

Christi. They'll

in the morning,

Monday we may make

and

have a nice

a picnic in the after-

a speech. Tell

them

that after the

Nixon's Nixon

49

next stop we're going to get up in that plane and just

fly

around. If they

want to come along with the next vice president of the United States, okay. Tell

and take This

them

October reverie

late

ing, rekindled his

war

Humphrey

Vietnam.

North Vietnam

to

end

Humphrey

encourage peace negotiations, and

breakthrough

for a at the

his

was winning votes

to

campaign began

a controversy over

fiery rhetoric,

which

and accompanying

editorial raising questions

Much

Agnew

for all the

bad pub-

in a

New

Yoy\ Times

about certain

in

in

Chesapeake Bay Bridge and bank stock ownership.

Agnew

high dudgeon, hoping by going on the offensive to turn the

development into juncture as a

Agnew

connection with construction of

of the factual information was old, and both Nixon and

responded

that

County executive and governor of Mary-

They included purchase of land

a parallel span of the

cam-

and some blue-collar

for the ticket in Dixie

financial dealings as Baltimore

at

Nixon and Agnew uttered hopeful

northern precincts. But the controversy did come,

land.

his

bombing of

hunker down.

now was

running mate's

in

peace talks that might rescue

in the

eleventh hour. Both

thing Nixon needed

last

went beyond

story

Lake City

cautiously called for a halt in the

words of peace while continuing

licity

a speech in Salt

with President Lyndon Johnson on the

LBJ, though unhappy with Humphrey's speech, pushed

paign's

The

Agnew campaigns when Humphrey, after much agoniz-

own campaign with

a partial break

stir.

go into town

both the Nixon and

in

which he made

to

we'll all

a nap."^'

was abruptly interrupted, however,

in

and then

we'll land after a while

a

Agnew

at this late

Nixon went on CBS News's Face

the Nation

campaign

wronged

party.

positive, or at least recast

and accused the Times of "the lowest kind of gutter

newspaper could possibly engage

in"

politics that a great

and asked why the paper had

waited until the closing days of the campaign to engage in below-the-belt politicking. his

3 '

It

made

political sense for

running mate, and also seemed

to

Nixon

come

to

to the defense

underscore the degree of confidence

he continued to have in the beleaguered Agnew. In the end,

manded

a retraction

of

Agnew

de-

and the Times refused, while acknowledging some

inaccuracies.

In a rare joint appearance on the night of October 31, the stage with

Garden.

It

Nixon

at a

massive

was the night Johnson

rally in

finally

New

Agnew

shared

York's Madison Square

announced

a breakthrough in

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS



Vietnam peace

talks,

election away.

Nixon

which the Republican told the

ticket feared could snatch the

crowd he hoped the bombing

"bring some progress" in the peace talks and, pointing to

claimed that "neither he nor

will destroy the

I

at the rally at all,

was

would

Agnew, pro-

chance of peace" by

ing the development into the campaign. 38 Including

remarks, and including him

halt

Agnew

a notable

inject-

in his

departure

from the modus operandi of the whole Nixon— Agnew campaign, of keeping them apart.

On

the

same

Humphrey had a huge rally in the Houston Johnson, who had cooled to his party's nomi-

day, in Texas,

Astrodome, with President

and urging

nee, finally yielding

governor John B. Connally,

At

gists.

his election.

to the

Also present was Democratic

disappointment of the Nixon

strate-

had been de-

the Democratic Convention in August, Connally

feated in efforts to preserve the unit rule enabling state delegations to vote

and had sulked

as a bloc,

way

they had courted

off.

Nixon agents descended on him

Agnew

after Rockefeller

had

jilted

in the

him

same

earlier in

the year.

On

made

the promise,

or implied, of a high cabinet post in a

Nixon

Administration, Connally had secretly helped them enlist leading Texas oil

executives and other

money men



carried Texas

had

mind

in

if

Nixon

bipartisan cabinet if elected.

in the state. It

— when he

"He was supposed

Democratic side and he was never supposed

when he came

to Texas, but

When LBJ

called.

showed up prospects

at the



finally

down toward

threw

in

with

to

talked later of having a

money from the appear with Humphrey

to raise

the end he did," Sears re-

Humphrey and Connally

Humphrey rally, that was the end of Connally's cabinet "And then Connally was supposed to 'help' with

for then.

the vote count [in Texas] but didn't," Sears said.

Texas and he got

all

today."

But Nixon,

admired Connally, the

Nixon-Agnew

On

had had more guts he'd be secretary of defense

a sucker for big, strapping, assertive

a sentiment that

would have

men, always

later ramifications for

relationship.

the day before the election, as

Muskie joined Humphrey

motorcade through downtown Los Angeles, and tionwide marathon

"Nixon didn't carry

upset with that." Later, after the election, Sears said:

"If the fellow [Connally] 39

was Connally Nixon

telecast,

Nixon held

in a

wild

on

a na-

later that night

a telethon of his

own

without

Nixon's Nixon

Agnew,

in

5*

Agnew campaigned

nearby Burbank.

alone clear across the

country, in safely Republican Virginia.

Nixon

did, however,

make

use of a pre-planned question from the

hand-picked moderator on whether, all

over again, he would

pick

still

he could choose his running mate

Agnew.

"I'm not unaware of the fact that

said.

some

He

doesn't wilt under

fire. ...

Nixon

has been the subject of

remember live

had

If he

told his television audience that "to

they [the Democrats] got,

won't

Agnew

that there

out his

term

is

to those at-

show you how

three

one chance

in three that the next

in office. If anything

of great

to hold the highest posi-

Humphrey

weeks ago

really

low

we have man we elect

said that

Agnew

should happen to me,

good, firm man."

will be a strong, compassionate,

man

under pressure." Referring

tion in the country, he'd be cool tacks,

would," Nixon

"I certainly

pretty vicious attacks by the opposition, but he's a

courage.

to

if

40

Nixon's unequivocal affirmative response was an obviously intentional rebuttal to a flurry of commercials run by the as a

clown whose

election

and

Democrats

possible elevation to the presidency

One mentioned

be a grim joke on the country.

lowed by canned laughter; another showed

a President

his face

becoming

GOP

Republican polls indicating that

border and southern

wanted all

to be

darned sure that

those places

all

any other questions, he thought

Agnew,

those people

would understand

Agnew

fol-

also re-

in bolstering the

states against the feared

cursion. In answering the question about

Agnew

Middle America he was

and that he had succeeded

a hero, not a joke,

ticket in

in

would

with the sound of a

beating heart in the background. But Nixon's praise of flected internal

Agnew

that cast

Sears said

who

Wallace

later,

in-

"Nixon

might be viewing from

that right off the bat, before they got to

Agnew was

one

hell

of a good guy." 41



As Nixon's lead in the polls continued to narrow, fate or the intervention of Nixon and/or Nixon agents sending word to Saigon that the South Vietnamese regime would get than a President

Humphrey

Saigon regime reversed ting

Humphrey's



itself

late surge,

a better deal

intruded.

On

from

a President

and pulled out of the peace

and

his

Nixon

the eve of the election, the talks,

undercut-

optimism.

Johnson strongly suspected that there had been such intervention through

a

strong Nixon supporter,

Anna Chennault,

born widow of General Claire Chennault, famed

in

the Chinese-

World War

II as

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

52

commander of

the Flying Tigers.

He had

Mrs. Chennault's phone

tapped and she was put under surveillance by the FBI

Embassy

the South Vietnamese

Agnew came under

election.

whether Nixon knew of her It

querque to her

suspicion as the link to Mrs. Chennault as

role,

"No, but our friend

say,

in

when asked

New

happened that Agnew's campaign plane was

so

at the time,

from

she visited

Washington only days before the

of an embassy tap in which she was heard to

a result

does."

in

when

it.

in

Mexico Albu-

but a check of telephone records indicated no

After the election, according to Nixon,

J.

calls

Edgar Hoover

him Johnson had ordered surveillance on Nixon and Agnew, and thereafter Nixon insiders often talked of how the Democrats had bugged Agnew's plane. The election was close a margin of victory for Nixon and Agnew of told

42



only half a million votes of 73 million

Agnew nessee,

cast.

Nixon

with helping to push the ticket over the top in Kentucky, Ten-

and North and South Carolina, whose 41

provided the electoral majority: 302 to 191 for for

strategists later credited

electoral votes

combined

Humphrey-Muskie and

45

Wallace and running mate Curtis LeMay.

Some may have

regretted the presence of

Agnew on

the ticket, but

Nixon was not one of them. His running mate had indeed become somewhat of a laughingstock hold

name

in

"Nixon had and he did

many

in

eyes in the process of becoming a house-

America. But he had done what had been expected of him.

in

mind

that

Agnew would go

that," Sears said later.

"He was

out there and support him, loyal,

never raised any

cism, and acted as a kind of lightning rod for him."

At the same time,

as the president-elect

criti-

43

his

campaign

New

York, Ted

and most of

party celebrated the victory at the Waldorf-Astoria in

Agnew watched the election returns back in Annapolis. To the end, each member of the Nixon-Agnew team went his own way. The important thing, though, was that the man from Maryland had become vice president of the United States, and he was determined to meet Nixon's expectations in his service in the political benefactor chose.

new

administration, in whatever capacity his

Chapter

4

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

When

Agnew took

the team of Richard Nixon and Spiro

the oath of office on January 20, 1969, the spotlight appropriately

was on

new president, not on his running mate, brought in on his coattails. The fifty-year-old Agnew led off the proceedings by reciting the prethe

scribed words,

and then he

sat

down, protocol allowing him no oppor-

tunity to say more. Thereafter, he remained sitting quietly as

Nixon

delivered his inaugural address, in which he counseled the nation that

"greatness comes in simple trappings" and that "to lower our voices

would be

a simple thing."

Nixon went on

to

warn of "bombastic

rhetoric that postures instead of

persuading" and lecturing that "we cannot learn from one another until

we

stop shouting at one another

our words can be heard



as well as

until

we speak

quietly

enough

so that

our voices." The message could have 1

been construed as a caution to Agnew, whose campaign oratory had Nixon's description of what needed to be avoided now. In new's

first

much

fit

of Ag-

year as vice president, he seemed to take his leader's words to

heart, grateful to

him

imagined only months

for the opportunity to serve that he earlier

would ever come

his

had never

way.

Agnew had ample reason to know the limitations of his new office, expressed down the years of the American Republic in phrases ranging from the philosophical and humorous John Adams, the "in this

I

am

first

to the dismissive

and derogatory.

occupant, had observed of the vice presidency that

nothing, but

I

may

be everything."

He

wrote

to his wife

53

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

54

"my country

Abigail that

in

wisdom

its

has contrived for

significant office that ever the invention of

man

me

the most in-

contrived or his imagi-

nation conceived." Peter Finley Dunne's Mr. Dooley later observed that "th' Prisidincy

th'

is

highest office in the gift

is

th'

next highest an'

be sint to

jail

Pr

sidincy

it,

but

a

kind

iv

And Woodrow Wilson

letters."

significance

J

it,

disgrace.

called

that in

is

one has evidently said

When Harry Truman

World War the atomic

of

a position "of

it

all

.

there

.

in-

.

is

to say."

2

justice to the vice presi-

vice presidents being kept

became shockingly obvious. Even

Dwight D. Eisenhower succeeded Truman

sion-making inner

circle.

trips,

Asked

when

as a good-will

he never brought him into his deci-

at a

run for the presidency

so,

arm's length, both

at

While the president used him

ambassador on many foreign

informed

Oval Office with

in the

he kept Nixon

as his vice president,

functionally and socially.

own

anomalous

in 1945 suddenly became president with

bomb, the imperative of

vital presidential secrets

for his

anonymous

raging and with no knowledge of the development of

II still

Richard Nixon

crime exactly. Ye can't like writin'

It's

Such remarks, however, no longer quite did dency.

people. Th' Vice-Pri-

The chief embarrassment in explaining how little there is to be said

and curious uncertainty.

discussing [the office

about

it's

iv th'

th' lowest. It isn't a

news conference

in 1960 for "a

as

Nixon prepared

major idea of his you had

adopted" during Nixon's nearly eight years as his vice president, Eisen-

hower famously

replied: "If

don't remember."

you give

me

a

week,

I

might think of one.

I

3

Nixon never forgot

that answer, nor the fact that in

all

the eight years

he had never been invited to the Eisenhowers' residential quarters in the

White House. As Nixon vowed

in the successful election

to treat his vice president

campaign

just

completed,

with more consideration and

re-

sponsibility.

Two

days after their victory, the president-elect had cordially invited

his

running mate

the

new

to his

Key Biscayne

retreat to discuss

administration. After their meeting,

Nixon

Agnew's

role in

told reporters he in-

tended to take advantage of the vice president— elect's experience as a governor and county executive to involve him deeply in urban affairs and

Agnew would be the most active and utilized vice president in history. Nixon gave Agnew an office in the West Wing of the White House, only six doors down from the Oval Office, federal-state relations.

He

said

Great Expectations

rather than confining

him

55

to the usual vice-presidential space in the

compound on

utive Office Building across a closed street in the executive

Pennsylvania Avenue.

As

had room

and kept

Agnew was

maybe one

for

"He

bered.

4

however,

a result,

staffer," his press secretary,

EOB

Nixon [about

office."

Gold

the job], because

dummy.

I

knew

I

Victor

his staff.

Finally, he gave

back

it

Agnew told him: "When I talked to of my status as a governor, I felt I could said

play a key role as a link to the governors.

when

"He Gold, remem-

from

largely separated

sat there in the office like a

his

Exec-

I

wasn't here twenty-four hours

wasn't going to do a thing."

man who

John Ehrlichman was the administration

dealt with

Ag-

new, Gold recalled, "and the only time Haldeman came over was to deliver

Agnew

messages directly from the president.

felt

he was looked

down on as a provincial, and Nixon didn't talk to Agnew very much. He didn't like to talk to people. They had a number— two guy who they could cajole, they could sometimes order directly, but couldn't count on

him

to

do what he was

The way of the Nixon They didn't like to have his

5

independence out there." In what was taken said, the

staff

time] they just

told.

people was that you did what you were told.

Agnew

[in

as a particular slight,

was never authorized

to use the

Gold

White House

mess, and his staffers did not even have passes that would admit them to the

White House proper, only

to the

Executive Office Building next

door.

Agnew House

himself wrote

later:

"As

far as

to better serve the president

my

was concerned,

everything was run as a closed corporation. didn't

tell

me what

cooperating with the White I

soon learned that

Haldeman and Ehrlichman

they were doing. There was a lot of secrecy and jeal-

ousy and vying for the president's attention

among

the senior people.

I fi-

more time with my own staff across the street in the Old Executive Office Building. Bob Haldeman came to me and said they needed more space in the West Wing; would I give up my office there, since I rarely used it anyway? I said I would. The press made a great deal out of the symbolism of my losing the White House office, but I had no objections. If the president had picked up the nally got disgusted

me

started spending

come in and work with him, I would gladly have But he never did. Our only interchanges came at the staff level."

phone and asked stayed.

and

to

There was the same gripe again.

6

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

56

According

to

Alexander Butterfield, Haldeman's deputy

at the time,

Nixon decided Haldeman needed space more distanced from the Oval Office to give him more freedom from what

actually

happened was

that

routine demands, so he took Agnew's office, and Butterfield, handling

most daily chores

for

Nixon, moved into Haldeman's old

office.

Despite Agnew's campaign gaffes, Nixon during this time displayed

no diminution

in his

ited responsibilities

Agnew

high regard for him, and

about his lim-

set

with diligence and determination. His considerable

store of personal pride

had undergone

a

heavy assault

campaign,

in the

particularly

from the Democrats, and he seized upon the work

combat the

ridicule that

clung to him.

still

A

at

hand

to

California entrepreneur

came out with a Spiro Agnew watch that became a big seller and inspired the gag that Mickey Mouse was seen wearing one. Soon Spiro Agnew sweatshirts and dolls also appeared.

To

a

man

of his dignity and stature,

such mocking was hard to take. His response was to do the best job he could in a no-nonsense fashion.

Almost from the

first,

however, he ran into what soon would be



known in the White House as "the Berlin Wall" Haldeman and Ehrlichman between Nixon and

two-man

the

buffer of

the rest of the staff, in-

cluding the vice president. Only sixteen days after the inauguration,

Haldeman wrote

in his diary:

LBJ's top advance

man

as

able to dissuade him, the 7

inside poop, etc." Gold,

Haldeman's

fears,

"Strange problem with Agnew, who's hired

an administrative

assistant.

guy has turned out

Agnew's press

No one

seems

to be

to be a total spy, has all the

secretary,

when

told years later of

could not identify such a person, nor could other Ag-

new aides who were questioned about it. The next day, Haldeman wrote of the same and 8

new: "E [Ehrlichman] and

I

president], about his staff

Afraid

VP

we made

[Haldeman] had knock-down with

and

office facilities.

things worse, and that

has no concept of P's view of

how

it

will

man. way.

He P

sees

no reason not

also upset because

to,

to

anywhere.

P

[president].

go

to

hiring

role,

and

all

a

Nixon

the

Meeting

Postmaster Red Blount and the

Winton Blount, an important Alabama Republican, was

I

LB} advance

into act at Legislative Leaders

vs.

[vice

to get

he should handle the

him

VP

and apparently intends to buck us

VP got

and sided with Congressmen

Hard

have

don't think he ever will. Real problem about

Ag-

other gripes about

P."

9

favorite

Great Expectations

pushing not a

make the Post Agnew to take on.

a plan to

man

for

Office a nonpartisan corporation, and

In Haldeman's handwritten notes for the

Nixon

vice

how

him

told

handle

to

on

to pass

57

same

day, he jotted

to the vice president:

"Talk

to

Should always take

self in legislative] mtgs.

Pres, not to develop programs, just sell our programs.

down adAgnew re from

line

Defend

cab[inet]

how much better off he is than N[ixon] in Eise[nhower] Admin." And when Agnew was quoted in the press the next day about an aspect of how intergovernmental relations would be handled, Haldeman noted: "Where did Agnew story come members and

Pres always. Point out 10

from? P should have said

Two

days later came

11

it."

still

another early indication that

The Nixon entourage was down

to be reined in.

at

Agnew needed

Key Biscayne and

the

new president was on the beach sunning himself and snoozing when, Haldeman wrote, "an aide had awakened him to say the VP was calling. Didn't take the call, wanted me to instruct the aide no calls down here except family. Agnew then called me [Haldeman] to see whether he should fly to Palm Springs and back tomorrow to present Bob Hope Golf Award. Said

Agnew Nixon

I'd

ask P." 12 Nixon's terse reply: "Yes, go." Just as notable as

calling the president

told

Haldeman

on such

a trivial

matter was the

to tell the offending aide he

from family members, even

if

the caller

was

Diego editor who came on

as the

early.

Agnew made

Maying

nated by Nixon's inner circle on a matter regarding his

Mitchell lost

made

ground.

tration."

On

.

.

a scapegoat for

It

own

in a

di-

Perfectly

staff.

whom Haldeman

Agnew's campaign

which he never would regain

domiIn not

and John

gaffes, Klein wrote, "he

power-prone adminis-

top of that, Klein said, Nixon's "inconsistent" relationship

with his vice president tration

Herbert Klein,

a mistake at the start by letting himself be

standing up for a campaign press secretary

only

Nixon White House

rector of communications, wrote later in his book, Clear, that

calls

his vice president.

Agnew's troubles with the "Berlin Wall" surfaced the veteran San

would take

fact that

"left

Agnew

insecure and easy prey for adminis-

power brokers." Agnew, he wrote,

sure from the

Nixon

"

was under heavy

political staff to cleanse

press" by ditching the "scapegoat.".

.

.

early pres-

himself of errors with the

Members of Agnew's "Maryland

Mafia" staff "were attuned to things on a

less

than national basis," Klein

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS



noted, and as

Haldeman and Ehrlichman moved

around the presidency

in close quarters.

.

Agnew

.

power

"to absorb the

did not

fit

their picture

of governmental power, and he easily allowed himself to be muscled out.

" 13 .

.

The

only constitutional task assigned the vice president was to preside

over the Senate and, in the event of a

Thus he had

in the executive

of president of the Senate seriously. In his

title

two months, Agnew opened the

from the presiding

the deciding ballot.

an officeholder

a rare legislative function for

branch, and he took his first

tie vote, to cast

daily Senate session himself,

members seeking

recognized

officer's chair

and

to speak,

handing down rulings on the advice of the Senate parliamentarian. In first year,

dent, or

he spent more time

Humphrey. And

in the chair

as the first

his

than Nixon had as vice presi-

non-senator in the job in twenty-four

years, he conscientiously accepted briefings

from the parliamentarian and

held lunches for small groups of senators of both parties.

spected senatorial prerogatives and at

first

with members on certain Nixon legislative

He

carefully re-

conferred with a light hand initiatives, to the

point that

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield one morning rose and com-

mended him

for "a job well

and assiduously done."

In short order, however, as

Agnew began

tive lobbyist for the administration,

ing senators on

how

vative Republican Senator

until

had

his vote

embrace the

role of legisla-

he became more heavy handed, press-

they were going to vote on specific measures.

deeply resented the intrusion, and

tration

to

14

on

Len

B.

when

They

the vice president asked conser-

Jordan of Utah whether the adminis-

a certain bill,

Jordan told him: "You did have,

now." Whereupon he announced that he would be guided by "the



if the vice president as a member of the executive branch him on any legislation, he would automatically vote the way. The incident was duly reported in the press and did not go

Jordan Rule"

tried to lobby

other

15

unnoticed by Nixon. Nevertheless, the president followed through on his pledge to

Agnew

a

working

vice president.

He

appointed him a

member

make

and, in

the president's absence, acting chairman of the cabinet, the National Security Council, the

on Economic

Urban

Policy.

Nixon

mental Relations and put ministration's point

man

Affairs Council, and the Cabinet also established a

Agnew

in charge,

in dealing

new

Committee

Office of Intergovern-

with a mandate to be the ad-

with governors, mayors, and other

Great Expectations

county and

He

local officials.

also

59

made him chairman, then

or later, of

and Space Council, the Marine Resources and

the National Aeronautics

Engineering Development Council, the Council on Recreation and Natural Beauty, the Rural Affairs Council, the Cabinet

Committee on DesegYouth

regation, the Indian Opportunity Council, the Council on

Opportunity, and the Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Obviously,

Agnew would

have enough

were formalities with

The new mental

he said he

The

stantly expanding.

more than oversight

little

vice president

office,

though many of these assignments

to do,

On

was delighted.

felt

"right

now

only problem

I

functions.

creation of the intergovern-

am

con-

top of all

this,

as volatile as gas does.

have

time."

is

16

On

I

he attended White House staff meetings and did not hesitate to speak out, especially

on urban matters, about which he considered himself a resident

expert. In meetings attended by

point of the governors.

The

Nixon,

Agnew

president treated

often expressed the view-

him

respectfully

and he

turn was deferential to his boss. Once, early in the administration

meeting of the Domestic Council was called and Nixon did not

special

Agnew

tend,

in

when

a

at-

presided but not from the president's chair, a gesture that

did not go unnoticed or unappreciated by others present. In so behaving,

Agnew

ings during Eisenhower's hospitalizations he always

chair unoccupied.

The

vice president at first accepted the traditional

he drew laughs by poking fun

spared no effort to keep

with a straight

William

P.]

face.

me

"He

at

me on ticket

[the

was the

bomb."

result of

second-banana role

Gridiron dinner in of-

can say that the president has

of foreign policy," he proclaimed

has specifically requested Secretary [of State

And

next

to

me whenever

remind

week General

He

said

it

wasn't true that the

[Earle B.]

in

"Strom Thurmond's intervention.

said, "Judy's eyes

Miami with fill

his decision

with tears and she

and he

said:

to brief

Nixon-Agnew

my ticket before Strom even mentioned him

Nixon phoned him on

meet-

the presidential

chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] has promised

the atomic

He went

"I

first

Rogers and Dr. [Henry] Kissinger

Mr. Nixon on

new

it.

fully abreast

his press conferences are televised.

Wheeler

left

at

17

of his office in good humor. As a speaker at his fice,

when

took a page from Nixon's vice-presidential book,

...

to

I

wanted

me."

When

told his wife,

Ag-

'Can you get out of it?'"

to describe the vice presidency as "that rare opportunity

in politics for a

man

to

move from

a potential

unknown

to

an actual

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

6o

unknown," and he even had a new deprecating line about the job: "Adding the vice presidency to our government is a little like adding maternity benefits to Social Security. You're there, but nobody needs you."

them

18

Several of the gags

Agnew's

to

office a

came from comedian Bob Hope, who phoned

couple of days before the dinner. 19

But Nixon's multiple assignments

president,

which

clearly

to

was not Nixon's

April 23, 1969, three months into the

demands

net members'

Agnew

P

new

him an

with the

Haldeman's diary

for

administration, reported cabi-

"Agnew wants Sherman Adams

Nixon, adding:

we have

says

a partnership

intention.

for face time with

regular weekly appointment.

apparently gave

approaching

inflated interpretation of his role as

to

have a

[Eisenhower's chief of staff] to handle this and keep them away from him, so

E and

I

are

it,

divided.

I

take big four [apparently secretaries of

defense, treasury, attorney general], he takes presidential adviser Arthur]

presidency works."

20

Haldeman, apparently

served in his handwritten notes that

.

to

Decided

[special

Agnew how

the vice

.

.

.

after talking

Agnew "must

with Nixon, ob-

not be involved in de-

should never participate] in discussions (Nixon never ever did

cisions, that).

rest.

Burns should explain

state,

.

.

N[ixon] was most successful

about 6 times in whole deal.

.

.

.

VP

—saw DDE[isenhower] alone

Only go

to

P when

absolutely neces-

(N always worked through [Sherman] Adams and [Gen. Wilton Must get away from apparent need (obsession) to establish an independent position. Must stop worrying about personal status." Two days later, Agnew apparently had not gotten the message. At Camp David, Haldeman wrote: "VP called just before dinner and said had to talk to P. He took the call. Later called me into bedroom to report, furious, that all he [Agnew] wanted was some guy to be director of Space sary.

.

.

.

B.] Persons.

.

.

.

21

Council.

May

turn out to be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

has just no sensitivity,

or judgment about his relationship with

movie we were walking home and P

Agnew

called

me

P.

He

After

back, again to ponder the

problem, and that of general area of cabinet relationships. He's

not really sure

how

available, but people

because he thinks he

to handle. tell

His

instinct

him he needs more

may

is

to be very distant

contact and this bothers him,

be handling wrong. Real problem

of them except Mitchell really

knows how

and un-

to relate to

him."

22

is

that

none

Haldeman's

entry conveyed not only Agnew's pushiness but also Nixon's extreme dis-

1

Great Expectations

6

comfort with personal contacts, especially with people he did not

Haldeman and Ehrlichman

well.

clearly

know

were exceptions, and that ex-

plained their influence.

The

vice president also

seemed

was intended

the auxiliary role he

have a basic misapprehension about

to

to play in the

new

administration, and

particularly in the realm of foreign affairs. In a letter to the president's

national security adviser,

Henry

"Dear Henry: Would you please arrange briefing

on national security

affairs.

each week, and want Stanley Blair

Mike Dunn

[his military aide] of

we may

the proviso that

on April

24,

Agnew

to provide

me

with a regular

Kissinger,

have

I

[his

my

in

mind about

chief of

staff],

wrote:

half an hour

Kent Crane and

staff to attend the briefings,

when

take five minutes or so alone

with

the need

arises. It

was not

until

two weeks

"Dear Mr. Vice President:

members of your

I

you

staff

later,

on May

would be pleased select

that Kissinger replied:

7,

to brief you

—weekly on

—and whatever

national security affairs.

I

suggest we begin next week, and have asked that an appointment be

arranged for either Wednesday or Thursday (May 14 or

would probably be more convenient time, easily

I

will

fit

have

my

fit

you

if

we

that

Since

it

did not set a permanent

week which

secretary arrange a time each

into your schedule."

More evidence to

for

15).

will

most

24

Agnew

did not yet get the picture on

how

Nixon administration, not

mention

into the operation of the

to

he was his

apparent insensitivity to the Nixon old-boy network, came in an "eyes only" letter

Agnew

sent to the president

feeling of disaffection

among

the Republican

concerning the apparent direction of California buddy,

HEW

16. It

members of

I

must

award of a grant of a hundred thousand

raise these

"the con-

through the framework of

some personal experience," presumably feel that

the Senate

policy" under Nixon's old

National Welfare Rights Organization, with which

gret that

reported "a great

Bob Finch. Agnew expressed concern about

tinual surfacing of radical left ideas in the prospective

on May

as

HEW,"

dollars to the

Agnew

said he

governor of Maryland.

unpleasant matters,"

Agnew

"had "I re-

wrote, "but

you should be informed that Secretary Finch's public posture

I

is

upsetting a broad segment of our natural political support, notwith-

standing his disclaimers of being out of step with campaign policies."

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

62

Nixon dismissed

the matter with a scribbled note on the letter to Finch: 25

That must have been quite a tone-setter for Finch-Agnew relations. The vice president also took his concerns about what he saw as the in"Please talk to VP."

of "radical

filtration

Nixon

directly to

warned:

am

"I

left"

influence in the adminstration's foreign affairs

memo

in a July 18

"Top Secret-Eyes Only."

labeled

It

deeply disturbed by the current involvement of so-called

POWs by North Viet-

'peace activists' in negotiating the release of certain

nam. The composition of the

'delegation' to

one Rennard [Rennie] C. Davis



Hanoi apparently includes

indicted for actions during last

sum-

mer's disturbances at the Democratic National Convention and only per-

make the trip as a result of an appeal to Judge Kerner; a James Johnson who refused to comply with orders to Vietnam while serving as mitted to

Army

an

private;

Democratic

one national

at least

"Our obvious concern

continued:

any and

all

SDS

[Students for a

mediaries. There

ing only our

own

is,

for the earliest possible

of the prisoners perhaps outweighs the obvious

propaganda advantage conceded

release

of

officer

Society]."

The memo release of

and

enemy by our

to the

use of such inter-

however, another important consideration. By allow-

far left

wing

program, do we not

to participate in

strike

most

what

is

in effect a selective

directly at the

morale of the

re-

maining prisoners? "Surely, the criteria for release lined] include tacit 'cooperation' tic to

assume otherwise.

premium

and

had

a

Five days State

I

unrealis-

enemy, exactly the reverse may

many who remain

costs."

in captivity. It

less

would be

dif-

well suited to conduct ne-

26

Nixon, apparently ignoring the "eyes only"

copy sent to Kissinger. later,

Agnew

sent essentially the

same

memo

to Secretary

of

William Rogers and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, specifying

that "the president shares

my

concern."

viewed by the prisoners themselves ity,

would be

strongly question whether hope for results [justified] the

and probably

caveat,

seems

It

It

clear that while there should be a

put together a group of Americans

gotiations, risks

with their captors.

for steadfast opposition to the

well seem to be true to the ficult to

under such circumstances must [under-

they

may become

He

added: "If release comes to be

as a 'reward' for tractability or docil-

demoralized. Further,

if

the

enemy

perceives clear

"

Great Expectations

and important advantages lease, the

The tious

in

63

such a program of limited and selective re-

confinement of the great majority may be lengthened.

vice president's other relations with cabinet

When

on occasion.

associates,

later,

own

his

Laird recalled.

members were

frac-

some Pentagon appointments

for

Laird balked. As a condition for taking the huge de-

partment, Laird said

would choose

'

he approached Laird, a former Republican

leader in the House, and pushed for

Agnew

:

"He

he had extracted a promise from Nixon that he

not have been given to

"Agnew

subordinates.

resented

me

it

that

because

it

did not like that very well,"

had that authority.

I

He

felt it

should

wasn't given to any other cabinet of-

He complained to Nixon about it, that he didn't think that was proper. And he complained that I was having a few too many Democrats ficer.

that

I

fense.

was appointing.

He

I

felt I

had

to

have a bipartisan group over

vice president also

was unhappy, Laird

learned that

Nixon had decided,

in the

tated, "that

I

would have the

football"

recalled,

—meaning

access to the secret pro-

Agnew, Laird

of resentment that Nixon didn't fully trust him."

never took place, Laird said, though

breakdown.

came

close

Agnew also opposed him on

army, the former defense secretary

Nixon program,

it

said,

so the vice president

Agnew's unhappiness about

his

when he

event he were to become incapaci-

cedures for control of U.S. nuclear weapons.

cations

De-

did object to that," but to no avail, Laird remembered.

The new

little bit

at

but

had

to

minimal

it

once

said,

The

"had a

transfer

in a brief communi-

creating the all-volunteer

was eventually part of the

swallow

28

it.

direct access to

Nixon

sur-

members by Roy Ash, chairman of a new Commission on Executive Office Reorganization. The new secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, George Romney, voiced opposition to another White House staff apparatus making it faced early in a briefing for cabinet

harder for himself and others in the cabinet to meet directly with Nixon.

Agnew

joined

in,

saying he shared the concern.

Immediately one of the commission members, John Connally of Texas, objected.

Ehrlichman wrote

that the commission's that

it

was

the cabinet

really not

later:

"Had Big John

not stood quickly to say

recommendations were the president's

an open question,

and confronted Nixon with

Agnew might have a difficult vote

desire,

and

put the issue to

of no confidence."

: ''

The way Connally slapped down Agnew was remembered by Nixon

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

64

long afterward, and he cited

of Connally's strength and decisiveness. got

either, especially later

it

more

an impressive demonstration

to others as

it

It

Agnew

wasn't likely that

when Connally would

for-

cross his path in a

significant regard.

Butterfield, recalling the

same incident

later, said: "I

remember

the day

Nixon became aware of Connally and became enamored of him. As Ash droned on, Connally in his genial way, not wanting to take anything

away from Ash, nailed

all

it

said

down

something

in ten

minutes."

bered, Connally was Nixon's

'What Roy's getting

like,

From

man, and

then on, Butterfield

told

him he could

own getaway at Camp David, anytime Meanwhile, Agnew could not completely shake his

Lodge, Nixon's

age as a clod.

On a Nixon

and he

at,'

remem-

stay at

Aspen

he wanted. 30 old campaign im-

return from Europe, his vice president greeted

him, as befitted protocol, prompting a Chicago's American cartoonist to depict

Agnew

inquiring of the president:

Krauts, Dagoes and Frogs?"

The

public perception of

Agnew

though

disorders also lingered,

"How are things with

the Limeys,

31

as a harsh critic of

campus and

street

as vice president he sought at first to ex-

press his concerns in milder terms in speeches to governors

and other

harmony with Nixon's own words. When the president in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said there could be "no compromise with lawlessness" on American campuses

governmental

officials,

and that school

campus

and always

officials

violence,

Agnew

in

should show some "backbone" in dealing with

echoed him.

He

told

an audience

in

Honolulu

that conciliatory college officials "dismiss too lightly the grave implications of

campus disorders and

across the country."

But even

own hard began

to

as

the reaction to

them

Nixon, interested

rhetoric, sought to

in erasing negative

hew

to the

become more combative. At

a

graduation

own

wordsmiths. "A society which comes to fear sniveling,

olent rebellion

it

memories of

his

at

Ohio

State in

generation in words as

harsh as those that later on would be written for

"A

reverberating

is

high road, Agnew's language

June, he lashed out at permissiveness in his

declared.

that

32

him by White House effete,"

he

hand-wringing power structure deserves the

vi-

encourages. If

my

its

children

is

generation doesn't stop cringing,

yours will inherit a lawless society where emotion and muscle displace reason.

Great Expectations

Up

was

to this point, there

still

65

no public indication from Nixon that

he was anything but pleased by his vice president's performance on the

Agnew

stump, or that

himself had any concerns with his role in the ad-

ministration. Privately, however, as the

new

vice president

was getting

tually

Haldeman

was already complaining. In those

Nixon, and Haldeman and Ehrlichman, were tration into shape.

As

assumed greater

it

just

first

months, he ac-

But the

a very large slice of the action.

showed, the

diaries

fact

was

that

whipping the adminisand

discipline

structure,

many

Agnew were now being assumed members, who were getting firmer control of

domestic tasks that had been given to

by others, especially cabinet their departments.

perts

He

began moving

began

in.

vice-presidential blues.

and have

a larger

hand

to be structured out,

According .

.

.

in

He

felt

34

it,"

one insider

to

and other domestic ex-

at the time,

"He

got the

he could honcho the domestic side of it

but others, like Daniel Patrick Moynihan,

Arthur Burns, George Shultz, and particularly Ehrlichman, were crowding him.

"Agnew

Damgard

recalled,

kept in touch with the mayors and governors,"

"and

from time

if

to

time they weren't getting what

Agnew. And when

they wanted from Ehrlichman, they appealed to

Ehrlichman saw

Agnew

as a

competing force on what he wanted

to do,

he worked very hard to undermine him." 35 C. D.

Ward, who became Agnew's

lations, recalled later

wanted him

assistant

won't be necessary." mostly kept his

Agnew

mouth

line



he

shut.-

when he

did

told so,

with busing to

Ward

to call the

he was told "that

easily,

but at

first

he

6

Nixon. But

as

until

he sensed a

go public with views that were a cardinal sin for a

Agnew

did not take such rebuffs

far as the public knew, Agnew

loyal subordinate to to

Agnew

to lead the administration's efforts to deal

involved agency for a briefing, and

gan

re-

one occasion on which Nixon told

achieve school desegregation in the South.

As

on intergovernmental

loss

at variance

number-two man.

now had remained

the

of his influence, he be-

with the administration

When

the administration

proposed allowable limits on federal tax deductions on municipal-bond interest,

sion state

Agnew

as a

former county

official

on Intergovernmental Relations

and

local

bond

sales.

urged the Advisory Commis-

to lobby against

it

as

an inhibition to

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

66

Again,

men on

of the launch of the Apollo

just before

moon

the

spacecraft that put

11

Agnew at a news confer-

for the first time, in July 1969,

ence at Cape Kennedy went public with an argument he had been ing within the administration to put

men on Mars went

century. After the successful launch, he

ground team:

told the ecstatic

today as far as Mars

know

that

I

He was

may

is

"I

want

to tell

by the end of the

into the firing

you

I

White House, Ehlrichman came

I

want

back

later,

make some recommendations

to

could not that

Agnew.

.

.

owed

get couldn't pay people.

If

for.

it

A

.

"was

Nixon

.

seemed obvious

to

me

our bud-

Mars space shot would be very popular with many

be criticized as the president it

"It

to the president not to include a proposal

the committee proposed

the other hand,

at the

later,

to the president that.

Ehrlichman continued:

live with."

you

across a briefing paper that said a Space

Advisory Committee headed by Agnew, Ehrlichman wrote about

to let

you

37

Some weeks

correct about that assessment.

room and

bit the bullet for

concerned. But on the other hand,

be a voice in the wilderness."

mak-

who

and Xixon had

it

to say no, he

kept us from finding

the committee didn't

recommend

on Mars.

On

we avoided

the

life

it,

would

problem altogether."

The

Lee DuBridge, had agreed with the

president's science adviser,

recommendation. "DuBridge was perhaps understand such

a political

to be forgiven for failing to

argument," Ehrlichman wrote, "but

I

saw no

excuse for Agnew's insistence that the Mars shot be recommended. At our meeting,

NASA,

was surprised

I

at his obtuseness. ...

had been wooed by

I

the Space Administration, but not to the degree to which they

had made love

to

Agnew. He had been

launchings, tours and dinners, and

perb job of recruiting him to lead

it

their guest of

seemed

to

me

honor

at space

they had done a su-

this fight to vastly

expand

their space

empire and budget."

So Ehrlichman confronted him

directly. "I finally

gloves," he wrote. 'Look, Mr. Vice President,

There

is

to be

cided that.

no money

for a

Mars

sory Committee's recommendations. help, to

The

trip.

The

So the president does not want such

make

It is

absolutely certain that the

vice president seethed.

your

Mars

took off the kid

we have

to be practical.

president has already dea trip in the job,

trip

is

Space Advi-

with Lee DuBridge's not in there.'"

As Ehrlichman reported, "Mr. Agnew was

not happy to be told what to do by me.

He demanded

a personal

meeting

Great Expectations

67

with the president. This was a matter for constititutional officers to discuss.

I

overlooked the obvious innuendo that

what the president had decided.

someone

will call you.'"

president called me.

He

'Fine,'

About an hour had decided

I

I

about

and

Erhlichman wrote, "the

vice

move

to

Agnew

to

at once,

said.

later,

was lying

Til arrange

it

Mars shot from

the

the

list

of recommendations to another category headed 'Technically Feasible.'"

When

Ehrlichman reported

Nixon what had happened,

to

dent told his lieutenant: "That's

just the

way

to

the presi-

handle him. Use that

technique on him anytime." Then, Ehrlichman wrote, "Nixon looked at

me

vaguely.

'Is

Arguments

Agnew like the

38 insubordinate, do you think?'"

one over the Mars shot came to be commonplace

with Agnew. "Nixon found early that personal meetings with

Agnew

were invariably unpleasant," Ehrlichman wrote. "The president came out of them amazed at Agnew's constant self-aggrandizement. Nixon recalled that as vice president he

had seldom made

a request of

any kind of

Dwight Eisenhower. But Agnew's visits always included demands for more staff, better facilities, more prerogatives and perquisites. It was predictable that as Agnew complained and requested more and more, Nixon would agree to see him less frequently." 39 Ehrlichman was not the only ranking Nixon man who couldn't get along with the vice president. "At

first, in

1969," he wrote, "I

was

sent to

Agnew when Haldeman realized that he and the vice president didn't get along well. The president's idea was that a high-level staff person should listen to Agnew [when an appointment with the president had see

been requested] and

try to deflect his

imprudent demands;

to arrange for the ministerial tasks to be

done by our

staff,

I

was expected

and

I

w

as

sup-

Agnew why his other demands ought not to be pressed in talks with the president. None of that worked, of course." Nixon's decision to give Agnew responsibility for dealing with the go\ posed to show

4"

-

ernors, mayors,

and county

officials

"that he

was

a natural one,

given Agnew's

it

turned out," Ehrlichman wrote,

was only an excellent conduit

for their complaints-^especially

prior governmental experience. "But

the gripes of [Governors] Ronald Reagan, John Bell Williams [of Mississippi]

and

affair

with Rockefeller, Rocky soon gave up on Agnew's liaison and be-

gan

a

calling

few other conservatives. Notwithstanding Agnew's 1968 love

me

the governor

directly.

went

I

tried to

wean Rockefeller back

to the president

and

insisted that

I

to

Agnew

until

be his avenue to the

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

68

Agnew. 'Agnew

president instead of

plained to me."

41

doesn't play

them

Nixon

well,'

ex-

In light of the Agnew-Rockefeller history, that was no

surprise in this instance.

In handling the assignment of liaison with the governors [which

Ehrlichman himself wanted and once

was

I

Agnew's

called into

Ehrlichman

later got],

said,

"more than

hear his complaints. If he were

office to

going to be able to do the intergovernmental relations job for the president, he'd say, he

had

have more help from the White House

to

the sort of resistance he was getting. sional-liaison staff

my

and

The budget

staff,

not

people, the congres-

domestic-policy experts were to be told that a

was

vice-presidential 'request'

to be

given heed.

tried to explain that

I

such staff people usually were following established presidential policy,

which probably didn't please the mayor or governor the had on the phone. That was why they were

man

Agnew

wrote,

fore long,

Agnew

sell

taxing and

our policy

to

them, not theirs to us," but more

was what happened. So

it

was not surprising

that be-

segued into taking the stump as the administration's

blunt instrument against less

calling him." But, Ehrlich-

himself become the servant of the governors and

let

mayors. "His job was to often than not, that

vice president

more

its critics.

interesting,"

"Speechmaking and traveling were Ehrlichman suggested with evident

contempt. 42 In the

summer

fare reform.

He

of 1969,

Agnew also bucked

endorsed a resolution

ence in Colorado Springs calling for a administration had just

at a

the administration on wel-

National Governors' Confer-

full federal

come up with

a

new

structure. Shortly afterward, however, he

takeover, at a time the

plan within a state-based

became

a

prime salesman

the administration's plan for an anti-ballistic-missile system.

the Senate

Camp tie

was voting on

David, and

it,

Agnew had

vote on the measure.

"You know how

back: "If

a tie

in

to vote

on

4

*

at a

meeting

at

that, don't

Washington, Nixon

you?"

Agnew

ABM, Mr. President, I'll be on the phone Ted Agnew was not above needling Nixon

shot

about the in return.

October 1969, the Executive Office reorganization that was

clipping Agnew's wings was well along, he aligned himself against cabinet

for

the day

he might have to break a

to depart for

on

welfare program."

When,

to leave because

As he got up

said in jest: it's

Agnew and Nixon were

On

members who

strategist

with

Nixon summoned Haldeman, Bryce Harlow to consider what to do

also felt undercut.

Ehrlichman, and veteran

it

69

Great Expectations

man

about the vice president. Harlow, a soft-spoken and genial older with diplomatic as well as

political skills,

was chosen

as the

messenger

from Nixon. "Say that the president pointed out to you," said Nixon, "that ditional in this

town

to try to divide the president

from

it is

tra-

his vice president.

me from Eisensame game now. He can't

I'm an expert. For eight years the press tried to divide

hower. Without success. They are playing the let it

happen. And," Nixon added, looking

staff

is

at his

two top

lieutenants, "the

44 never to criticize the vice president."

Two weeks

Ehrlichman wrote, Nixon was informed that

later,

was fighting with the

Department over

State

his desire to

go

to

Agnew

Vietnam,

Formosa, and seven other Asian countries, "and State was afraid

him

go."

they

kill

Deadpan, Nixon

"I'm sort of afraid to have him go too. If

said:

Nixon, they get Agnew.

him." 45 Nixon said

to let

have anything happen

I'd hate to

to

was

clear that less than a year after he

had selected the governor of Maryland

as a great choice to be a heartbeat

away from

happened

in jest, but

it

it

the presidency if anything

to

him, he already was

revising the judgment.

The

vice president, however,

House.

One was Harry

memo

on September

was not without

Dent, Nixon's

specialist

had missed, Dent wrote

at

Camp

on southern

the

White

politics.

meeting of White House

29, after a political

and party congressional leaders

allies in

David

that the traveling

In a staff

Agnew

him: "In concluding the meeting, the presi-

to

dent paid special tribute to you for your great capacity, your good work to date,

and your courage.

explained to

him

He

that

speaking engagements. possible.

.

.

.

to

make good

use of you, and

understood you were out on

You were

in the praise.

But others did not always lier

He

Of course,

Griffin [of Michigan] for the

one also joined

all

I

everybody was already making good use of a very

cooperative vice president.

whenever

them

told

he wants you

at all future

of

meetings

also highly praised by Senator [Robert]

good job you are doing This was Spiro treat

a series

him

Agnew

in the Senate.

Day."

Every-

46

to his satisfaction. Despite his ear-

"instruction" to Kissinger to "provide

me

with a regular briefing on

national security affairs" and Kissinger's written agreement, the vice

president eventually became dissatisfied with the help he was getting

from the national Haig,

felt

security adviser. Kissinger's deputy, General

obliged on October 2 to send a

memo

Alexander

to his boss reporting that

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

7o

Agnew

an

me

aide "tells

the vice president will undoubtedly be quite up-

set that

you were unable

Agnew

trip to the

him

to brief

Far East.

"I

morning"on an approaching

this

recommend

that

you

call

the vice president

morning and explain your predicament, informing him that you will 47 see him next week at his convenience." The vice president was learning where he stood in the White House pecking order. this

He was

growing penchant

also learning that his

was not universally embraced

named William

At one

point,

an aide

him about what Agnew

Agnew had

informing him that

ducted by the well-known radical

Agnew had

activist

questioned

was the foundation's

believed, erroneously,

nancing of that summer's National Conference on the

Kissinger that

to Kissinger

Watts, a former employee at the Ford Foundation, sent a

memo to his boss

confidential

therein.

for left-wing bashing

New

fi-

Politics,

con-

Marcus Raskin. Watts

told

asked him to get him more information,

in-

cluding the names of the board of the Ford Foundation. Kissinger scribbled on the

memo: "Let

the head of the foundation.

For most of the

first

You

us stay out of it.

president. If he wants facts let

him

are not

working

for the vice

write to [MacGeorge] Bundy," then

48

year of the

Nixon— Agnew

administration, the vice

president had in his fashion generally observed Nixon's inauguration plea "to lower our voices"

and "stop shouting

tion of an occasional outburst against tions

aimed

at

ending the Vietnam

became louder and more frequent. called 15.

at

one another," with the excep-

campus

violence.

War dragged

A

it

on, anti-war protests

for

Wednesday, October

approached, Nixon pointedly declared that

any influence on whatever by

it,"

his

war

policy.

he declared.

In Dallas six days before

as negotia-

huge nationwide demonstration

Vietnam Moratorium Day was scheduled

As

But

it

"Under no circumstance

would not have will

I

be affected

49

Moratorium Day, the

vice president told

Re-

publican fund-raising dinner guests that the approaching war protest was "ironic

and absurd," and was planned

working

to

to scar the

political figure really

end the war. "Only the president has the power

peace," he said. "Congress cannot dictate

Committee cannot coerce it.

one

By attacking the

it,

and

all

the

the students in

Vietnam Moratorium America cannot

create

president, the protesters attack our hope for peace.

They weaken

the

mont, he

"The time has come

said,

it,

to negotiate

hand

that can save."

50

Two days later in

Montpelier, Ver-

to call a halt to this spiritual

Theater of

— Great Expectations

7

the Absurd, to examine the motivation of the authors of the absurdity

challenge the star players in the cast."

On and

the eve of Moratorium Day,

told

Agnew

him he was going

mum

Nixon met Agnew

Haldeman wrote

to take a shot at the organizers.

So we

possible coverage.

frantically got

it,

him [Agnew]

but wanted

set

him

in

question

now

is

whether

it

up, had

.

.

.

helps or hurts."

torium organizers for not repudiating

namese regime wishing them success fears of violence, the event

VP to take

into a review with

time for the evening news.

cameras

went off in

at the

White House

of the whole business, but wanted

to stay out

decided he would not get into

and

51

a

P and

"P

on, to get maxi-

Buchanan do

Result was 52

it

in his diary:

a statement,

barely got before the

we

got the coverage,

Agnew condemned

the

Mora-

telegram from the North Viet-

in their

day-long protest. Despite

a restrained

and responsible fashion,

with a bizarre coda. In the early morning hours, Nixon appeared unan-

nounced

at the

Lincoln Memorial and had a long talk

with camping students pilgrimage.

53

Agnew's

who were

highly publicized

rium Day

a

wide

football!

of a more serious mien in making the

carefully planned

lost in the

—about

harangue

at the

organizers got

Nixon change-of-heart about giving Morato-

berth.

Agnew, meanwhile, had His original expectation

in

mind nothing

to be

as frivolous as football talk.

occupied as the Nixon administration's

overseer on domestic affairs was adrift in the reorganization of responsibilities.

So, spurred by his success as a

new

social critic, especially regard-

ing the behavior of the nation's young, he

mission perhaps even

more

would embark on another

suited to his talents.

He would

take the mes-

sage against the various destructive forces in the country to the grass roots



or at least to the conservative Republican faithful.

evidence that Richard Nixon had any objections. Ted boy,

and what came next would

with his constituency of one.

in

one regard

There was no

Agnew was

at least boost his

still

his

standing

Chapter

5

AROUSING THE SILENT MAJORITY

Richard Nixon's

tactic of addressing rebellious

American

youth with friendly discussions on the fortunes of gridiron heroes was not part of his vice president's political playbook.

he went to

New

On

the next

Sunday night

Orleans for another Republican fund-raiser, carrying

with him a text that mildly defended the president's dealing with the

main

issues raised

by Vietnam Moratorium Day. Agnew, after glancing

through the dull nine-page his

own words

that

opened

text, jotted

a

new

down

a

one-page introduction

in

chapter in his already controversial po-

litical career.

As was

his

in the nature

Agnew

custom,

delivered his remarks in a deceptive calm,

of a stern professor advising a group of parents about their

wayward offspring. "Sometimes it appears that we are reaching a period when our sense and our minds will no longer respond to moderate stimulation,"

he

said.

"We seem

sion through speeches

demonstrations aimed

"The young tion

all

to be

approaching an age of the gross. Persua-

and books at

—and by

this

I



selves

with drugs and

at the zenith

tinctions based

too often discarded for disruptive

mean by any stretch of the imaginaabout those who claim to speak for the

don't

the young, but I'm talking

young

is

bludgeoning the unconvinced into action.

of physical power and sensitivity overwhelm themartificial

stimulants. Subtlety

on acute reasoning are

is lost,

and

carelessly ignored in a

fine dis-

headlong

73

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

74

jump

to a

predetermined conclusion. Life

and the most

tual,

visceral rather than intellec-

is

who

visceral practitioners of life are those

themselves as intellectuals. Truth to them

is

characterize

'revealed' rather than logi-

proved, and the principal infatuations of today revolve around the

cally

which can accommodate any opinion and

social sciences, those subjects

about which the most reckless conjecture cannot be discredited."

He went on:

demand of the uneducated to suit the ideas of the uneducated. The student now goes to college to proclaim rather than to learn. The lessons of the past are ignored and obliterated in a contemporary antagonism known as the generation

A

gap.

spirit

"Education

of national masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete

corps of impudent snobs in this setting of

achieves

its

effete corps

prime "Agnewism,"

be uttered by his

him

other,

in

It is

Vietnam

would come

colorful phrases would, in a short time,

of Nixon speechwriters,

many and

antagonize

many

Vietnam Moratorium," he continued,

this

one was

come up with

that he didn't need outside help to

language designed to arouse recent

of impudent snobs," would soon be

as such catchy denunciations

more

at the suggestion

own, demonstrating

"The

themselves as intellectuals.

greatest distortion."

known. Though

to be

who characterize

dangerous oversimplification that the war

Agnew's phrase, "an cited as a

being redefined at the

is

others.

"is a reflection

of

Thousands of well-motivated

the confusion that exists in

America

young people, conditioned

since childhood to respond to great emotional

saw

appeals,

fit

today.

to demonstrate for peace. Most did not stop

that the leaders of the

Moratorium had

billed

it

to consider

as a massive public out-

pouring against the foreign policy of the president of the United

Most did not care

to be

reminded

that the leaders of the

States.

Moratorium

re-

fused to disassociate themselves from the objectives enunciated by the en-

emy

in

Hanoi. If the Moratorium had any use whatever,

emotional purgative for those

who

felt

it

served as an

the need to cleanse themselves of

their lack of ability to offer a constructive solution to the problem.

tunately,

we have

not seen the end.

The

hard-core dissidents and the pro-

fessional anarchists within the so-called 'peace to exacerbate the situation.

more

violent,

November

Unfor-

15

is

movement'

will continue

already planned

and equally barren of constructive

result."



wilder,

1

The speech, and especially the phrase "effete corps of impudent snobs," made page one in newspapers across the country the next day, a rare pub-

Arousing the Silent Majority

licity

coup

for the

and

reporters

occupant of an

editors to await

and slanders

news shows. They

Agnew's succeeding bombastic utterances in print

and on

television evening

Among

were news but they also were entertainment.

was the man

the readers

office traditionally ignored. It alerted

prominent display

for

75

in the

Oval Office,

who

digested with relish

Ag-

new's hot copy appearing on the president's daily news summary.

For

his

Agnew needed no encouragement to continue rhetoric. The next night in Jackson, Mississippi,

own

combustible

vamped

part,

his anti-intellectual speech to appeal to a

in that

he re-

Dixie audience. "For

too long," he said at another Republican fund-raiser, "the South has been the

punching bag

for those

who

characterize themselves as intellectuals.

Actually, they are consistently demonstrating the antithesis of intelligence. Their reactions are visceral, not intellectual; and they seem to believe that truth

is

revealed rather than systematically proved." Agnew's

words, as intended, generated a visceral response from the emotional crowd, which loved the intellectual-bashing. Shoveling more red meat on their plates,

he declared that "their course

is

one of applause

mies and condemnation for our leaders. Their course ultimately

weaken and erode

is

for

our ene-

a course that will

the very fiber of America.

They have

a

masochistic compulsion to destroy their country's strength whether or not that strength

exercised constructively.

is

continual emotional crescendo for reason.

And

And

they rouse themselves into a

substituting disruptive demonstration

precipitate action for persuasion. This

sider itself liberal, but radicals."



it is

undeniable that

it is

more comfortable with

2

The crowd

itself

responded with an emotional crescendo

linkage of liberals and radicals. But by

now some

were getting concerned about possible overkill

in the

whom

ally restrained

to

Agnew's

White House

as the vice president in-

creasingly free-lanced on the stump. Party leaders

some of

group may con-

from major

cities,

themselves had participated in some aspect of the gener-

Vietnam Moratorium Day, or had young members of their

families involved, let

it

be

known

they didn't appreciate the sweeping na-

Agnew himself said later that Kim had wanted to join the day but

ture of the vice president's harangue.

fourteen-year-old daughter

"wouldn't

At

a

let

her" because "parental-type power must be exercised."

his

he

3

White House meeting over Agnew's inflammatory remarks,

Rogers Morton, the party chairman, and congressional leaders Gerald

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

76

Ford and Hugh

Scott, all moderates, reported that nervousness

mounting among Republicans on Capitol political aide

from South Carolina, spoke Meanwhile, the

ter the protesters.

mode, two days

But Harry Dent, a Nixon

Hill.

support of Agnew's going

in

af-

vice president continued in his attack

Edmund Muskie

charging Democratic Senator

later

was

with playing "Russian roulette with United States security" by proposing

moratorium on

a unilateral

Agnew venture into The harsh tone of the

usual

questions from White

testing multiple nuclear

this field.

—an un-

remarks generated repeated

vice president's

House

warheads

4

reporters as to whether he

himself or for the toned-down Nixon, himself

now

was speaking

conspicuously

if

for

un-

on the high road. Each time the presidential

characteristically striding

press secretary, the officious

Ronald Ziegler, was asked whether Agnew's

speeches were being cleared by the White House, he said the vice presi-

dent never had to clear his remarks because he was speaking for himself.

A

week after Agnew's shot at Muskie, he appeared with Nixon at a White House reception for the Ethnic Groups Division of the Republican National Committee. "The vice president," the president said, "from time to time feels he's very much in touch because of his Greek background. Now, I'm not Greek but I'm very proud to have the vice president with his Greek background in our administration, and he has done a great job for this administration." It wasn't clear whether Nixon was .

.

.

5

man or his Greekness, but the president usually said so little Agnew that it was taken as a compliment. Actually, later that day

praising the

about

the president told

determined not

and

Haldeman,

to let [the

his stand-in, "in spite

The same

as the chief of staff

Agnew

critics]

of flack about

night in Harrisburg,

heat up several notches. By

"drive a

street carnival

regrets.

I

way of countering

and suggested

do not intend

he was

6

Agnew, thus encouraged, turned

appears that by slaughtering a sacred

no

later, that

wedge" between him

VP speeches."

criticism of his

the South, he noted that he had criticized "those

ment by

wrote

it

cow

to repudiate

I

my

remarks

who encouraged

was time

the in

govern-

to stop the carousel. It

triggered a holy war. beliefs, recant

my

I

have

words, or

run and hide."

Going

after the

war

critics again,

Agnew

said:

"Small cadres of profes-

sional protesters are allowed to jeopardize the peace efforts of the presi-

dent of the United States.

It is

time to question the credentials of their

Arousing the Silent Majority

leaders.

them I

say

And

if,

in questioning,

to be disturbed. it is

If,

we

77

disturb a few people,

in challenging,

we

time for a positive polarization.

polarize the

It is

I

say

American people,

time for a healthy in-depth

examination of policies and a constructive realignment in is

time to rip away the rhetoric and divide on

Not even Nixon

in his

7

who were

for

him and

those

against.

Agnew, repeating

made

this country. It

authentic lines."

most combative days had so pointedly invited

dividing the American people between those

who were

time for

it is

crystal clear

his assault

on that

impudent snobs,

effete corps of

what he thought should happen

them: "America

to

cannot afford to write off a whole generation for the decadent thinking of a few.

America cannot afford

to divide over their

deceived by their duplicity or to

however, afford than

we

should

to separate feel

Now Agnew stroy

it."

society

really

on

a roll.

He

blasted

"vultures

who

sit

chants of hate" and "parasites of passion"

whose most comfortable lenge: "Right

position

from both

regret

and want

in trees

and watch

who were

As

a

we

too late, before the witch-hunting

lions battle,

excoriated "mer-

"ideological eunuchs

wind-up, he

decide whether

stave off a totalitarian state. Will

He

to de-

straddling the philosophical fence,

is

sides."

now we must

evitable begin?"

can,

"avowed anarchists and

that win, lose or draw, they will be fed."

soliciting votes

We

—with no more

detest everything about this country

He called them

knowing

them from our

destroy liberty.

to be

over discarding rotten apples from a barrel."

was

communists who

let their license

demagoguery, or

we

laid

down

a chal-

will take the trouble to

stop the wildness

and repression

now

that are

before all

it

is

too in-

8

The remarks were

astonishing, even

coming from

this

new

sensation

of the political stage. In one breath he had called for polarization of the

American people and "discarding

rotten apples

next warned of witch hunts and repression.

famous defense of "extremism

Not

pressing the sentiment of the vast,

may

before

it's

even

his turn."

It

and

in the

since Barry Goldwater's

political figure

expressed

Ted Agnew keeps on exoverwhelming majority of the Ameri-

such venom. Goldwater himself loved

9

a barrel"

in defense of liberty" at the 1964 Republi-

can convention that nominated him had a major

can people," he said, "he

from

it.

"If

find himself being

seemed by now

have occurred to the vice president.

boomed

that the

for president

same thought may

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

78

What, one might have asked at this point, had ever happened to Nixon's inaugural call on the American people to lower their voices and bring the country together after the divisive campaign of 1968 that had elected the

Nixon- Agnew team? Was Nixon

lofty business in the

his

own more

Oval Office, or had he quietly unleashed

more venomous

president to be an even

had been

minding

just

as Eisenhower's hatchet

weeks

In Philadelphia a few

his vice

version of the slasher he himself

man? later,

Agnew

gave his

own answer

to

Nixon's inaugural plea. Repeating his condemnation of "a carnival in the streets"

by a "student minority" that was raising "intolerant clamor and

cacophony," he declared: restoration of sanity

once again."

10

Agnew's

marks, but not

Around

and

"I, for

civil

one, will not lower

my

voice until the

order will allow a quiet voice to be heard

favorite device of alliteration peppered his re-

as conspicuously as

it

soon would.

this time, Pat Buchanan got the idea of capitalizing on Ag-

new's growing popularity and media attention by turning to a favorite

Nixon complaint tors.

In early



the instant analyses of

November, Vietnam

to discuss his

the president

policy.

war demonstration, scheduled

who had

izers than those

guest analysts

network

had gone on nationwide

He hoped

15,

anti-

by more radical organ-

put together Moratorium Day.

commenting on

television

major

to diffuse the next

November

for

commenta-

television

Among

the

the speech had been President Johnson's

W.

chief negotiator in the Paris peace talks,

Averell Harriman.

He and

other network and guest commentators essentially dismissed the speech as

an old-hat exercise in accentuating the

positive.

In a revealing diary entry indicating that

lancing in his fiery speeches,

of Buchanan's idea of mentators. too

is

P

feels

it's

a

VP it

and

On

he's the

one

to

do

from

free-

wrote: "Considerable discussion

idea.

was

I

discussed

a bit abrasive.

VP and

he

(Kind of humorous with

all

it

the attention he's getting for his recent 'hatchet said

far

doing a major speech blasting network com-

good

interested, but felt

Haldeman

Agnew was

yesterday with

man'

tactics).

Needs

to be

it."

the eve of the speech in Des Moines, which had been scheduled as a

routine talk to a meeting of Midwest Republicans, there was also this entry:

"P

really pleased

and highly amused by

Agnew

speech for tomorrow

Arousing the Silent Majority

night. his

.

.

.

Worked

over some changes with Buchanan and couldn't contain

mirth as he thought about

may

be enormous, but

wrote

some of Buchanan's moderated some he edited

it

it.

says

Will be a bombshell and the repercussions

what people think."

that he had taken a personal hand

later

it

79

rhetoric

and gave

Agnew

sections that

himself so that the

in the speech. "I

Agnew," he

to

it

Indeed, Nixon also

11

said.

"We

down

further

thought sounded strident, and then

final version

would be

in his

can only wonder what had been too "strident" for Agnew's

To make

toned

certain of the reaction, the

words." 12 (One taste.)

White House the next day

released

the full text of the speech several hours in advance, sending the networks

scurrying frantically to air all

the networks,

live.

Agnew

and

Pool coverage was hastily arranged for

did not disappoint them, launching into an

on the "instant analysis and querulous criticism" of the famous

assault

men

it

in the studio booths.



"The audience of seventy million Americans gathered to hear the was inherited by a small band of network

president of the United States



commentators and self-appointed

whom

way

expressed in one

say." It

analysts," he intoned, "the majority of

was, he went on, "obvious that their minds were

vance." Although "every

what he had

or another their hostility to

American has

made up

to

in ad-

a right to disagree with the presi-

dent of the United States and to express publicly that disagreement," he said, the public

ought

to

have had the right to

listen

"without the presi-

dent's

words and thought characterized through the prejudices of hostile

critics

before they can even be digested."

Agnew ing:

15

took particular aim at Harriman's tour as peace negotiator, say-

"Like Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, Mr. Harriman seems to be under

some heavy compulsion

ABC

News,

man

for the occasion"

sought.

to justify his failures to

the vice president charged,

He went on

anyone

who

had "trotted out Averell Harri-

and he had "recited perfectly" the

to allege that

ment on talks



president.

Nixon supported

at the

the

enemy agreebombing halt

The charge alluded to the November 1968 that had broadened

the shape of the table."

talks that

critical line

Harriman had "swapped some of

greatest military concessions in the history of warfare for an

over North Vietnam in

will listen."

the peace

time and continued later as

14

Harriman

actually

presumptuous

had prefaced

to give a

his

remarks by saying,

"I

wouldn't be

complete analysis of a very carefully thought out

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

8o

speech" by Nixon.

He added

wants

that "I'm sure he

no one wishes him well any more than

end

this

war and

Harriman benignly ob-

do."

I

to

served, however, that "he approaches the subject quite differently the

manner

well.

I

in

which

I

approach

hope he can lead us

He

it."

concluded:

But

to peace.

this

"I

wish the president

not the whole story that

is

we've heard tonight." That was hardly "querulous criticism."

Agnew them

15

He

saved his best, or worst, for the paid commentators.

called

group of men who not only enjoy the right of instant

"this little

buttal to every presidential address, but

hand

in selecting, presenting

tion."

He

national

from

more importantly wield

and interpreting the great

issues

re-

a free

of our na-

characterized the network reporter as "the presiding judge in a

by jury," and said of the commentators:

trial

an inflection of the voice,

a caustic

remark dropped

"A

raised eyebrow,

middle of a

in the

broadcast can raise doubts in a million minds about the veracity of a pubor the

lic official

know

of the

wisdom of a government

men who

policy.

.

.

.

What do Americans

wield this power?" Nothing, he said, "other than

they reflect an urbane and assured presence, seemingly well-informed on

every important matter."

But the public did know, he went on, that they

Washington or stantly to

New

lived

Agnew

artificial

[of

it

in

reinforcement to their

said nothing of the fact that

most of the net-

work commentators had traveled widely before they prominent jobs, and that many continued to do so. "Is

and worked

York, read the same newspapers, and talked "con-

one another, thereby providing

shared viewpoints."

all

attained their

not fair and relevant," he asked, "to question [the] concentration

power]

elected by

in the

hands of a tiny and closed fraternity of privileged men,

no one, and enjoying

government?"

Agnew

a

monopoly sanctioned and

licensed by

said he wasn't suggesting censorship, merely ask-

ing "whether a form of censorship already exists million Americans receive each night

is

when

the

news

that forty

determined by a handful of men

responsible only to their corporate employers, and filtered through a

handful of commentators

He

called

who admit

on the public

to

their

complain

called the speech "an

United States

set

of biases."

to their local television stations,

and thousands who heard him responded executives squealed like stuck pigs.

own

in

agreement.

The

top network

Frank Stanton, president of CBS,

unprecedented attempt by the vice president of the

to intimidate a

news medium which depends

for

its

exis-

Arousing the Silent Majority

tence

upon government

The

license."

Si

was soon reinforced by the

fear

rev-

Dean Burch, appointed by Nixon as chairman of the licensing Federal Communications Commission, had called the networks for transcripts of their commentators' remarks after Nixon's Vietnam speech. elation that

Burch responded by

calling

Agnew's speech "thoughtful, provocative and 16

[deserving of) careful consideration by the industry and the public."

At the White House, according day,

Nixon "was

now become

with

really pleased

Haldeman's diary entry the next

to

VP

talk last night.

.

.

and

feels he's

good property, and we should keep building and

a really

using him."

Four days with P

fully

later,

Haldeman

convinced

Stan Blair and told him to

now

speaking,

is

mum exposure right away." Agnew

by

tell

major figure

"The debate on Agnew

wrote:

he's right

and

VP

that majority will agree.

to

in his

I

rages on,

talked to

keep up the offensive, and

own

right.

P wants him

keep

to

to get

maxi-

17

now needed no

urging, from

Nixon or anyone

Not

else.

only did the president not object to the spotlight shining on his stand-in,

he relished

it,

and seemed happy

to

have

Agnew

function as a lightning

rod drawing criticism to himself. Nixon press secretary tinued to say

Agnew was

speaking

not cleared by the White House.

Buchanan "may have, and

I

own mind and

his

The most

Ziegler

Ron

Ziegler con-

his speeches

were

would allow was

that

think did have, some thoughts" on the Des

Moines speech, but Haldeman's

diaries

had more than "some thoughts" about

proved that Nixon's speechwriter |s

it.

Indeed, Buchanan was becoming a close confidant and cheerleader for

Agnew, and the

was

news media, so hot that

some

New

targeted.

it

The draft of Agnew's speech White House ran up a caution flag

time the newspapers.

this

on the day before the

order they turned their attention to another blast at

in short

cool heads in the

was

to be delivered in

Montgomery, Alabama, with

Yor\ Times and The Washington Post, two old Nixon nemeses,

Haldeman's entry

for the

day warned: "Huge problem

late to-

me of the VP's speech for tomorrow night, a real blast, not just at TV, now he takes on newspapers, a lot of individuals and the kids again. Pretty rough, and really does go too far. Problem is Agnew is day

as Ziegler tells

determined

to give

it

and and won't

listen to Ziegler, or

communications director Herb] Klein. Blair off,'

so

I

said he should.

said,

'Only

Now we'll see what happens."

19

[White House I

could turn

it

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

82

was

It

was

now

clear

that the Spiro T.

Agnew, who

less

than a year earlier

compliant second banana whose main gripes were staffing limita-

a

had already become secure enough

tions,

on the administration. At

to

make more

least in his role as the voice

serious

demands

of what the presi-

dent had called the Silent Majority, which Nixon vigorously applauded

Agnew was throwing

and wanted extended, distress

his

weight around,

to the

of some other insiders, including the second-most powerful

in the administration

man

— Bob Haldeman.

Haldeman's diary entry on the day of the speech

reflected the concern:

Agnew

what

"Day

starts

deep

in the

E

to take. Finally

had made

make any

right.

position

agreed the original speech

I

So we told P about

that nothing short of

P would

(since

it

cause

VP

to

P agreed, after I skimmed through the objectionable only way to handle was through whoever had written it. I at first

it

was Buchanan.

It still hits

very hard, especially at the

came

New

did get out the highly personal and defensive segments.

I

from

page and said obviously

spent a long time with Pat, but as the final version

I

point that

attacks

me

do much good.

didn't

it

Yor\ Times.

made

clear to

know. P looked

He was out

it

to a substantial degree.

try to decide

change).

area, then said

didn't

we

[Ehrlichman], Harlow and

would be harmful, Blair

problem, as

a

Agnew must

lower

level."

P

be cool and calm and never defend against

20

The Montgomery speech as delivered focused on concentration of ownership among the nation's major press organizations, with particular focus on the Times and the Post. Agnew carped at the Times, suggesting that lack of competition made it soft and charging, erroneously, that it had ignored

As

policy.

a strong letter

for the Post, he alleged that in

magazine and

Washington

a

editorial line,"

were

of congressional support for Nixon's Vietnam

it

far off the

had

a

its

ownership

also of Newswee\

television station, "all grinding out the

strangehold on public opinion.

mark, ignoring the

fact that the

The

same

allegations

Times and the Post were

probably the two most committed and innovative newspapers in the country in serving their readers the



as well as

among

the harshest critics of

Nixon administration.

The

vice president insisted he

was "opposed

to censorship of television

or the press in any form." Defensively, he observed that "for the purpose

of clarity, before of

my

friends in

my

thoughts are obliterated in the smoking typewriters

Washington and

New

York,

let

me emphasize

I

am

not

Arousing the Silent Majority

recommending

am

the

83

dismemberment of The Washington Post Company.

powerful voices [the Times, the Post, Newswee\, and the

harken

station]

had

I

merely pointing out that the public should be aware that these four

to the

same master." Each,

independent editorial

its

policy,

as

Post's television

Agnew must

have known,

but the vice president did not

that

let

distinction interfere with his assault.

He warned

when

that "the day

New

the gentlemen of the

the

network commentators and even

Yor\ Times enjoyed a form of diplomatic im-

munity from comment and criticism of what they over.

.

.

When

.

their criticism

them down from public debate.

one

I

do not seek

opinions

is

past.

And

that day

But the time

shall invite

networks or any-

for blind acceptance of their

the time for naive belief in their neutrality

Nixon not only indicated approval but up even more attention

to his stand-in.

opinion poll was taken in

late

is

rough and tumble of the

to intimidate the press, the

out.



becomes excessive or unjust, we

their ivory towers to enjoy the

from speaking

else

said

also

is

urged Haldeman

When

a

new

November showing

gone."

to

21

drum

internal public-

the vice president's

Haldeman a way you could see that the Agnew poll got a good ride would be for Buchanan or [press aide Lyn] Nofziger to get in fifteen of the more conservative columnists and give them a little preview of it. The main point I wish to emphasize, however, is that it must not be treated as a poll which we took but simply one that came to popularity continuing on the upswing, the president sent

memo:

"It

occurred to

me

that one

our attention."

Nixon, though, was not anxious

rating

continued: "I

and not quite

am

so hard

inclined to go harder

on

his

own

popularity

on the agreement with him about the

sion commentators, although the second point can be lead."

with the di-

about the prominent television analysts expressed by Agnew.

visive views

The memo

to be associated personally

made

as

televi-

second

22

In early December,

ference that dignified

Nixon

Agnew had

told reporters

a televised

news con-

"rendered a public service in talking in a very

and courageous way" about the press coverage.

plaints himself, he said, "just so long as the

tonight, an opportunity for

news media

me to be heard directly by 23

He

had no com-

allows, as

the people

it

does

and then

They did indeed, offering only of recapping and summing up ABC for one minute, CBS

television briefest

during

commentators

will follow."



the for

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

84

NBC

four and

Agnew had

for eight.

had gotten through where

it

reason to believe that his message

counted.

Within the White House, differences continued regarding the president's effectiveness

and how he

who had

other staff aides

in as a

fit

been against

Agnew

post-convention meetings of the year before

them put

new

it,

the vice president

licans,

Some

that Nixon, as one of

felt

was

doubts on the one hand and the feeling that

a valuable ally

on the other endured." 24

long as Nixon himself continued to encourage the smoking

as

rhetoric

of the team.

ever since the Mission Bay

"had created a Frankenstein monster." Moving toward the

year, this aide said, "the

But

member

and expressed pleasure

Agnew was

at the public

unassailable.

On

response to

it

among RepubHaldeman

another of his speeches,

recorded in his diary that "P really pleased afterwards with the VP's

He

tude and approach. very well.

VP

vice

P

is

really relishes taking

on

a fight,

atti-

and he does

it

concerned though about letting Buchanan run loose with

25 because he's almost too willing to take up the cudgel." At the same

time,

Nixon

told

Haldeman

to

setup," his chief of staff wrote.

extraneous

you have

activities,

to get

him

handle him with kid gloves. "Got into

"P wants us

to

persuade him to cut back on

but said 'whatever he asks for

to cut

VP

I

have to give him,' so

back voluntarily." 26

The man who barely a year earlier had acknowledged that Spiro Agnew was not a household name was now indisputably that, and largely by his

own making. He was

and

certainly louder,

big news, almost as big as the president himself,

and deference had

to be paid.

Chapter

6

HOT-AND-COLD

HONEYMOON

A

NlXON SENT AgNEW ON

T THE START OF I97O,

much

day, eleven-nation tour of Asia, giving rise to

the purpose

Before

about the

trip,

wants him

to get

to

said the

him out of the domestic Nixon

Main point was

talk

about

In advance of the trip,

to get the

hand

Agnew

AID

oping some

this account:

all

"P

be halfway at Afghani-

for

some

P

him

told

light quips,

those things he had been talking

now

because he's

they'll listen

VP

back on

to constructive

issue to death.

He got the

demonstrated another of

in foreign policy.

He

wrote a

memo

ground

point."

1

his efforts to

to Secretary

of

John Hannah, head of the Agency for International Devel-

opment [AID], and Peace Corps he wanted

in for a talk

back-handed compliment, not intended

and stop him from riding the media

State Rogers,

he'll

media except

stop talking about the

VP could now

deal himself a

wrote

him

has itinerary set and very reluctant to change.

a national figure. Sort of a

that way.

limelight for a while.

in his diary later

about before but no one was listening, and

become

press speculation that

in a rare departure called

go on around the world since

now

he should

left,

and Haldeman

VP already

stan.

and

was

Agnew

A TWENTY-THREE-

director Joseph Blatchford telling

and the Peace Corps

pilot projects

"to

examine the

feasibility

them

of devel-

wherein the resources of the respective agencies

could be coordinated. This would appear to be extremely desirable with respect to the Peace Corps' plans to increase

its

activities in the area

of

85

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

86

Corps members." The

technically trained

port from the recipients. fable hand:

"On

One

of them wrote on the

the basis of what

The White House was send reporters on the

vice president asked for a re-

Agnew

is

memo

doing this?"

an unidenti-

in

2

flooded with applications from newspapers to

but only ten press seats were available.

trip,

the vice president's prime targets, the

New

One

of

Yor\ Times, got one of them,

but the other, The Washington Post, did not. Anticipation of a string of

Agnew

would

gaffes that

ruffle international feathers

went unrealized

the vice president, with foreign-policy experts from the State

aboard, essentially stuck to his

Agnew

tion against

An

"eyes-only"

script.

only

bump was

Department

a demonstra-

by Peace Corps volunteers in Afghanistan.

memo to Nixon

upon

Peace Corps was not

interest in the

The

as

his return suggested his pre-trip

idle.

The

vice president alerted

him

"among our Peace Corps volunteers are a hard core of anti-war people who make a very bad impression by demonstrating against the

that

Administration position in Vietnam. These people seek press exposure

and

in

two

places

were rather embarrassing. In Bangkok, Peace

visited

I

Corps volunteers made public statements against the Vietnam war and

wore black armbands during incensed and provided

Nixon

my

stay.

The Thai government was

quite

with detailed information on the situation."

jotted in the margin: "Disgraceful."

Agnew

further wrote that the

had reported

was able later

me

"difficulty in stopping a

do

to

American ambassador

so only

when an

Peace Corps demonstration" and

aide had

meeting with the ambassador.

Afghanistan

in

"I feel

met with them and promised

a

very strongly that our ambassa-

dors should be directed to avoid conferring with dissatisfied Peace Corps volunteers,"

ment

Agnew

it

was "inappropriate

in

my

judg-

for our high-level diplomats to be pressured into meetings with

these malcontents."

agree

wrote, adding that

—put out an

To

order."

From

Nixon

this

scribbled to Kissinger: "I completely

Agnew went on,

demands "was which Nixon wrote:

response to their sonally," to

that,

writing that the ambassador's

too conciliatory, and

"Right."

and other evidence, the

vice president

erate as a responsible if a bit intrusive

I

let

him know

per-

3

member

was continuing

to op-

of the Nixon team. That

evidence apparently did not, however, earn him and his wife, Judy, the

warm embrace of other White House

insiders. In a

social staff after the

memo from Haldeman

Nixons'

first

"Evening

to

one of the

at the

White

Hot-And-Cold Honeymoon

House"' event

"How

February, the chief of staff asked:

in early

did the 4

Agnews happen to end up in the receiving line and upstairs afterwards?" Haldeman also was concerned about Agnew's growing penchant for

He

talking about himself.

change Agnew's

told speechwriter

style, that in his

Buchanan

had

that they

them

speeches he needed to lard

"heavily

own

with praise" for Nixon and the administration and not "toot his horn."

On issues, Haldeman said, Agnew should not take a position unless

Nixon had already spoken or and

so,

to

if

he gave a

too,

order for

more kicking

that the vice president should "do

Ehrlichman,

specific

Agnew

do

to

the other side."'

continued to have severe reservations about the vice

president, at least about his ability to take on important policy tasks.

When Nixon progam to be

in

decided in early 1970 to put planning for a

Agnew's hands, Ehrlichman wrote

added

to the vice president's staff,

TV

specialists.

ings

on health

Agnew issues,

and guiding the during

staff to the result.

I

along with a speechwriter and

watched the

man was

thoughts were unwelcome to him. As a gather for the president it

became

all

narrow

a

.

.

.

Spiro

When Agnew,

as

work

vice president closely

cause of his mental con-

new

exceedingly narrow;

result, his health project

did not

the practical alternatives for a final choice. In-

Agnew's preferences. One by

reflection of Spiro

one the resource people dropped away from the languished.

"health experts were

but he seemed incapable of organizing the

concluded that the

I

health

then chaired a series of interdepartmental meet-

this health project, trying to discover the

stipation.

stead

later,

new

Agnew had

effort (as did

struck out on health.

I),

and

it

"'

chairman of the cabinet committee on school deseg-

regation, got heavily involved that spring in an effort to peacefully dis-

making a Haldeman wrote in his diary: "Agnew made a new Buchanan speech about the end of the deseg-

solve the dual school system in the South, his enthusiasm for

splash had to be reined

big pitch for his using a

regation

beyond

in.

movement." But Nixon, he went on, "doesn't want

his

own

position

and thus become oversold

as the

VP to get out

southern

egy man. Afraid to dilute or waste the great asset he has become."

According [by

to

Ehrlichman, "Harlow, Haldeman and

I

strat-

7

were called

in

Nixon] and Bryce Harlow was sent off with orders for Agnew. To

mollify the vice president,

Haldeman and

I

were

to stay out

of the

new

arrangement: 'You, Bryce, are to clear any of his statements on school tegration or civil rights,'

Nixon

said. 'Tell

him I'm very pleased with

in-

the

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

88

way

he's

handled himself, so

Anything he wants

ences.

okayed by

me

But

far.

he's not to

have any press confer-

to say that's not [in accord

in advance. Tell

him

I

don't

with policy] must be

want any new ground broken.

Say: I'd hate to have to repudiate something he said."

8

That particular report from Ehrlichman revealed not only the bad blood between Nixon's two top advisers and Agnew, but also Nixon's

own

pointed disinclination to deal directly with his vice president. As

with others, the president preferred to convey his wishes through third

This withdrawn manner

parties.

in his private dealings

from the way he often presented himself

trast

when he gave

was

a

sharp con-

in large public events,

much glad-handing and back-slapping among old But in this as in so many other ways, he did so awk-

in to

political associates.

wardly, with gestures that often seemed out of sync, and with what came off as feigned enthusiasm.

even withdrawn

When Nixon

in

Agnew was

crowds, well-groomed almost to an antiseptic degree.

traveled, he played the hale party

Agnew on

the other

man,

inviting old politi-

mutual business and having

cians to his suite to discuss their

two.

the opposite: frequently aloof,

hand abhorred such

a

drink or

familiarity except with his

small traveling circle, often skipping pre-dinner receptions and staying in his hotel suite until his

appearance was required, and retreating to

it

afterward. Nevertheless, the president and his vice president did seem to be on

good,

if distant,

terms.

When,

early in

March, Nixon had decided not

to

attend the college graduation of his daughter Julie for fear of being a distracting presence,

wrong

sider; thinks

there's a

The at the

and

now

talked

Haldeman

him out of

it.

"VP

he should just go and

in

sit

him he was him to recon-

told

recorded, "and this caused

demonstration or a bad speaker."

audience and take the heat

if

9

president and his vice president did

make

a rare joint appearance

1970 Gridiron dinner of Washington newspaper correspondents

editors.

Two

White House a

Agnew

in not going,"

nights before the affair,

for a secret meeting,

gag Nixon had worked up on

his

which

Nixon

called

Agnew

to the

turned out to be a rehearsal for

own, with only Haldeman

in

on

it.

At

the dinner, the president strolled onto the stage and called the vice presi-

dent to join him, asking him whether there really was a southern strategy in

which he played

suh!"

Then

a

they sat

key

role.

down

On

cue,

Agnew

at separate pianos.

replied emphatically:

"No,

Each time Nixon began

to

Hot -And -Cold Honeymoon

play a favorite of a former president

"The Missouri Waltz"

Agnew on

for

89

— "Home on

Range"

the

Harry Truman, "The Eyes of Texas"

duet of "God Bless

a

both of them. As

smash

we

hit.

Haldeman .

.

.

described

it

how

never be able to top

he'll

had come

it

it,

for

was an ab-

me

af-

off, as

he

Great idea and beautifully executed. P called

should have been. Feels next year.'"

uncommon

in his diary: "P's idea

got home, was really pleased with

If this

LBJ,

They wound America" and "Auld Lang Syne," the

traditional Gridiron closer, in a public display of frivolity

ter

for

the other piano loudly interrupted with "Dixie."

up playing

solute

FDR,

for

and won't even go

10

kind of jovial joint appearance suggested that

Agnew was grow-

ing into something approaching a partnership with Nixon, however, that

was well off the mark. Nixon's words and actions within

interpretation

the

White House

around

this

an "eyes-only"

clearly indicated otherwise. In

time to Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Henry Kissinger, the

president wrote that he didn't

want

to be

bothered with what he called

"low-priority items" beyond "a semiannual report indicating

He

happened." have that

in

mind

instructed

farmed out

Venezuela

is

to

official

Agnew. For example,

I

do not want

this to

Agnew, however, was not role

when he

could.

the

way

"The

GSA

tracts in the

discriminated against. this

later

states.

is

from

have been included on the 11

had cause

March of 1970 on which reflect, Nixon's number-two

in late

to

Nixon

that he

was concerned about

General Services Administration] awarded

Eastern

and

reluctant to inject himself into an executive

vice president told

[the

to see this

the minister of mines

happen again."

About one occasion

Ehrlichman three years aide wrote:

up

from the low-priority countries. All of this

a case in point; he should not

schedule, and

what has

Haldeman: "In the arranging of my schedule,

these priorities. Great pressures will build

minor or major

to be

memo

Agnew

asserted that 'our friends'

its

con-

were being

Someone [presumably Agnew] should monitor

important form of patronage." Ehrlichman wrote that soon after-

ward, he got a phone saying an

Agnew

call

assistant

from Robert Kunzig, the had

called

GSA

him and ordered

administrator,

that such matters

be cleared through the vice president. Ehrlichman informed Haldeman,

who checked and found

sweeping control of the GSA." Ehrlichman wrote then: simply another case of

Agnew such "To me this was

"there had been no decision to give

Agnew

trying to grab

some of

the

White House

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

9o

levers. It didn't

me

occur to

that

Agnew might

cially

from such

was

problem that required constant

a

control;

one, was able to give."

I

be seeking to profit finan-

ignored the signals. Obviously, Spiro

more

vigilance;

Agnew's

intention of overseeing

on kibitizing on how the president needed

to counsel

plained that his vice president had

his

Agnew had

department

crybabies just us'

and

lectured

secretaries in

more with

Agnew, Nixon com-

become an advocate of the

him on

more

'protect us.'

often for consultation. 'The said. 'They'll say,

Imagine that damned Agnew!'"

in

involved was on the Lincoln

'crybabies' in

the need for the president to have

want therapy, of course,' Nixon

The one important arena new

Agnew

cabinet members. Ehrlichman wrote later of Nixon: "In the

spring of 1970, after one of his rare meetings with

the cabinet.

for

actions. Indeed,

he avoided his vice president whenever he could, in part because

him and with

I,

12

Nixon himself had no insisted

Agnew

attention than

which Nixon

Day

damned

'Oh, help

13

want Ag-

definitely did

fund-raising circuit, where he

served up generous portions of alliterative ridicule against his targets,

from Democrats

in general to liberals in particular. In Lincoln,

Nebraska,

he drew peals of laughter by saying the public was "ready to run for the Rolaids" at Democratic complaints about him, and in Chicago he attacked "supercilious sophisticates"

who pushed

for

open-admission

poli-

cies in the country's universities. In Atlanta, he responded to anti-war

pickets outside his hotel

and

specifically laid claim to

being the voice of

the Silent Majority, with this harangue:

The

liberal

media have been

seek accord and unity

me more

than to see

calling

among

all

all

me

to

lower

my

voice

and

to

Americans. Nothing would please

voices lowered; to see us return to dialogue

and discuss and debate within our ernmental system;

on

institutions

and within our gov-

to see dissatisfied citizens turn to the elective

process to change the course of government; to see an end to the vilification, the obscenities, the

become interests

vandalism and the violence that have

the standard tactics of the dissidents

of peace and freedom.

who

claim to act in the

Hot-And-Cold Honeymoon

But

want you

I

to

know

that

will not

I

9i

make

a unilateral with-

drawal and thereby abridge the confidence of the Silent Majority, the everyday law-abiding

American who

believes his country needs

a strong voice to articulate his dissatisfaction

with those

who

destroy our heritage of liberty and our system of justice.

seek to

To pene-

cacophony of seditious drivel emanating from the

trate the

best-

publicized clowns in our society and their fans in the fourth estate,

my

yes,

a whisper.

own

we need a cry of alarm, not few, who would desecrate their

friends, to penetrate that drivel, .

.

.

Let the few, the very

house be made

fully

Such declarations began

them now

aware of our

utter contempt."

14

concern of the president,

to arouse the

who

more of personal self-aggrandizement than he liked. After one conversation with Nixon around this time, Haldeman recorded in his diary that Nixon "made point again that we need to

saw

in

a bit

Agnew

change the

approach.

He

but not for the administration. personality."

is

a very effective salesman for himself

Has become

too

much

of an issue and a

15

More concern surfaced about a week later when Agnew's speaking tour had taken him to Des Moines and he was about to leave for Houston. At the White House, Nixon was meeting with the Danish prime minister when word came that the third space mission to the moon, Apollo

13,

had suffered an explosion

and was ordered initial

moon

to abort the

notion of having

Nixon

fly to

in

one of

its

oxygen tanks en route

landing and return home. After an

Houston, the Apollo

13 base,

it

was

decided otherwise, Nixon not wanting to be seen as grandstanding.

Haldeman quickly

got on the phone to

Agnew and

told

him not

to pro-

ceed to Houston either. "I

him

got into a bind with VP," to halt

Made him

on runway

sit

and wait

at

for over

then raised question with

Houston

for

Haldeman wrote

Des Moines

P,

as

in his diary, "by

an hour while P was with prime minister,

and he

fully

agreed

VP

same reasons P shouldn't, plus upstaging

should not go to

P.

VP mad

but agreed to follow orders and go to Florida and wait."

high elected

man, even

16

as hell,

Agnew

as a

champed at getting orders from the unelected Haldethey came from the president. It was an irritant that

official

if told

ordering

he was leaving for Houston.

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

92

only grew as time went on and Haldeman's role as the second-most pow-

man

erful

Nixon administration was cemented.

in the

Through

this period,

Agnew

continued to oversee the Office of Inter-

governmental Relations, but not

Nixon

memorandum

sent out a

to his

own satisfaction. In mid-April, new subcommittee of his pro-

creating a

posed Domestic Affairs Council incorporating Rural and Urban Affairs

Agnew

Councils.

countered with a

and instead work through

sider

while "integrating

it

intergovernmental relations office

his

reflected

was not being adequately heard

voice

urging that he recon-

into the decision-making process of the

The memo

Affairs Council."

memo to Nixon

Domestic

Agnew's general concern in a timely

that his

way, and by inference

that he was being reduced to a role of implementer of decisions already

made.

It

was

confirmed by

a reply

from Ehrlichman,

the administration's domestic czar.

was,

among

others, "currently

tive office reorganization.

According

plagued the vice president, and was

a fear that increasingly

He

deftly positioning himself to be

wrote

under study"

Agnew

that his proposal

as part of a

sweeping execu-

17

to party officials,

Agnew's

assaults

on administration

critics

before partisan audiences around the country were bringing millions of dollars into state

GOP treasuries, and

ticularly in that light.

Governor

Tom

his invitation to States,

One who was

McCall of Oregon.

displeased with him, however,

When

the vice president turned

memo

in the

called 'right-wing groups'

Agnew all

files,

McCall deplored "the

down

the troubles before the nation today." this time,

to do.

it

a very positive opportunity to speak all

seemed, the vice president had more pressing

Nixon had suffered

to southerners that fall

elections,

political

two conservative Haynsworth Jr. of

defeat in the Senate of F.

South Carolina and G. Harold Carswell of Florida.

coming

of us in regard to

18

Dixie nominees to the Supreme Court, Clement

message

vice presi-

over the country addressing what he

meaningful audience that could help him and

in the

down

and harming relationships with students and

youth, but here he was turning

work

was

speak to a meeting of the Education Commission of the

dent being able to run around

At

was valued par-

which the governor chaired, McCall loudly complained. Accord-

ing to a staff

to a

the vice president

Agnew

brought a

by gaining Republican control of the Senate

Nixon would

yet put

highest court. In Columbia, Senator Strom

one of their

Thurmond

ilk

on the

in his introduc-

Hot-And-Cold Honeymoon

93

"South Carolina

tion of the vice president predicted to wild applause that

Agnew," and Agnew obliged,

will favor Spiro

customary non-

in his

threatening tone of voice, with some vicious gags using Nixon as his

man.

straight

said, when Nixon House swimming pool into a sumptuous I objected to using the swimming pool for

His only disagreement with the president came, he "decided to convert the White

new

press room.

this

purpose.

drained out."

House

It 19

wasn't that

It

was

just that

The crowd

I

resented his insistence that the water be

loved the notion of drowning the whole White

and other similar thinly veiled hatemongering

press corps,

in the

guise of humor.

As

part of Agnew's general attack on liberals, he began focusing on ac-

ademics

in

some of

the nation's most prominent eastern universities.

was the president of Yale, Kingman Brewster

particular target

called for his ouster for

having sympathized with students

strike in support of Black

Panther leader Bobby Seale, on

Brewster had also criticized Nixon's election

der.

process,"

which

led

demand

fine old college to

sponsible person."

Agnew

to declare "it

that

it

is

Agnew

who went on trial for

mur-

hucksterized

time for the alumni of that

be headed by a

more mature and

re-

20

This and other criticisms of academic leaders came creasing unrest on

American campuses over the war

in the context in

of in-

Vietnam and

ris-

A study of campus tensions by the American Council on

ing racial conflict.

Education assigned some of the blame

to "political exploitation

of campus

Agnew and Ronald Reagan. Vietnam War, Agnew offered more than his oratory

problems by some public figures"

Regarding the

as "a

Jr.

A

21

like

in

aggressive support of Nixon's policy. In April of 1970, as the president

pondered military action

to

wipe out enemy sanctuaries

in

Cambodia

from which attacks against South Vietnam were being made with impunity, his vice president urged the strongest possible response. Accord-

ing to State

cated

Henry

Agnew

Kissinger,

took on the more cautious Secretary of

William Rogers and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird,

minimum

known

force.

as Parrot's

He

egged Nixon on

to attack

two

who

advo-

sanctuaries,

Beak and Fishhook, when only one of them was under

consideration as a target.

Kissinger wrote later that at this point the

whole debate

"Agnew spoke

irrelevant. Either the sanctuaries

were

up. a

He

thought

danger or they

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

94

were

not. If

it

was worth cleaning them

out, he did not

pussyfooting about the American role or what tacking only one.

of

Our

task

was

to

understand

all

the

we accomplished by

at-

make Vietnamization

[the

military operations by the Saigon regime] succeed.

all

on both Fishhook and

attack

Agnew was

Parrot's Beak, including

assumption

He

favored an

American

forces.

right."

This interjection into Nixon's realm of foreign policy expertise flected the

growing confidence of Agnew the domestic-policy man, but

also a certain disregard of his

Kissinger went on: "If

own

tough than

limits

and of Nixon's

sensitivities.

Nixon hated anything more than being presented

with a plan he had not considered, being

re-

it

was being shown up

Though

in a

group

as

chafing at the

bit,

he adroitly

placed himself between the vice president and the cabinet.

He

authorized

less

American sis

air

support for the Parrot's Beak operation but only 'on the ba-

of demonstrated

hook.

.

.

.

his advisers.

necessity.'

He

avoided committing himself to Fish-

me

After the meeting, Nixon complained bitterly to

that

I

had

him of Agnew's views, of which I had been unaware. I have no doubt that Agnew's intervention accelerated Nixon's ultimate decision to order an attack on all the sanctuaries and use of American not forewarned

r

rorces.

j>22

In the end, cal

Nixon decided

meeting with

new was advice,

go

NSC members

after

Fishhook

determined

still

as well.

now

smarting from Agnew's unexpected

to be the strong

in his criti-

taking his vice president's

man

of this meeting."

23

The

sally

and foreign

affairs. It

was

clear by

now

and was

vice president,

been taken on the team for his background in domestic

and policy matters, suddenly was finding and expressing itary

But

on the planning, Kissinger noted, "Ag-

not invited. Even though he was

Nixon was

who had

to

political

his voice in mil-

that he was of a mind not to

take a back seat anywhere in the administration,

if

he could manage

it.

Chapter

BIG

What

J

MAN ON CAMPUS

the administration called the "incursion" into

Cambodia,

in April

of 1970, inflamed American campuses as a reckless

Agnew was thrown into the breach with an apon CBS News's Face the Nation. He defended the action as nec-

expansion of the war, and pearance

essary to protect U.S. forces in South Vietnam,

dissident

and destructive elements

in

and he lashed out

at "the

our society" that were "simply

uti-

lizing this as a vehicle to continue their antisocial, outrageous conduct."

Reminded near

the close of the interview of Nixon's inaugural plea for

lowered voices and asked whether he had "increased divisiveness country, and

man

if

so to

what end," he demurred: "When

doesn't run into the

the water?'

He

needs to be called here."

On

I

am

yelling 'Fire!' because

Cambodia

think 'Fire!'

I

action

Kent

State University in Ohio, ig-

—and fanned by Agnew's

rhetoric

campuses across the land. National Guardsmen, rushed

State

campus by Republican Governor James Rhodes,

protesters

the If

and

and

moment

some

please get

1

the very next day, a protest at

nited by the to

room and whisper, 'Would somebody

yells, 'Fire!

in this

a fire takes place, a

killed four of

them. In Washington,

fired

Agnew

—spread

to the

Kent

on student

responded

to

with a prepared and blistering attack on the demonstrators.

in the

audience thought his words "show a certain insensitivity"

at that precise hour,

he said, he was responding to "a general malaise that

argues for violent confrontation instead of debate." tose [hairy] exhibitionists

who provoke more

He

targeted "tomen-

derision than fear" and

95

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

96

"who

group acceptance are ready

in their feverish search for

tumultuous confrontation

as a substitute for debate."

Agnew

In the course of this tirade,

singled out patrician

Lindsay of

New

who were

"ready to support repression as long as

and

voice

a business suit."

handsome

a

month

a

The

had been

earlier

vice president

profile."

critical

it is

it is

done

of

officials

in a quiet

2

State shootings rat-

Nixon. "He's very disturbed," Haldeman wrote

night. "Afraid his decision set

it

off,

and

that

is

in his diary that

the ostensible cause of the

demonstrations there. Issued condolence statement, then kept after the rest of the day.

of-

with a cultured voice

At the White House, meanwhile, news of the Kent tled

Mayor John

responded against other

"ready to support revolution as long as

ficials

and

who

York,

endorse

to

Hoping

rioters

me all

had provoked the shooting, but no

real

evidence they did, except throwing rocks at National Guard. Talked

how we can get through to the students, turn this need now is to maintain calm and hope this serves about

demonstrations rather than firing them up.

P is troubled by Cambodian move."

sult. ...

the

all this,

although

Hard it

stuff off. to

.

.

dampen

to tell yet

which

was predicted

.

Main other

will re-

as a result of

3

Agnew's smoking

now

it

rhetoric continued to delight

was turning off others of a more moderate

secretary of interior, Walter

who had

flirted

J.

many bent.

Republicans, but

One was

Nixon's

Hickel, the former governor of Alaska

with the Nelson Rockefeller candidacy before being

brought into the Nixon

fold.

He

wrote a

letter to

Nixon urging him

to

rein in the vice president as a first step in rebuilding shattered lines of

communication with the tially

nation's youth. "I believe the vice president ini-

has answered a deep-seated

ments," Hickel said. their attitudes so to further

mood

of America in his public state-

"However, a continued attack on the young

much

as their

cement those

4

reason." Later, Hickel

motives



serves

on the

talk at the

sion to investigate the off.

Star.

story,

purpose other than

CBS News show Sixty Minutes

Kent

State shootings, but

letter

repeated the

Agnew.

White House about appointing

Meanwhile, Hickel's

The

in

attitudes to a solidity impossible to penetrate with

observation without specifically mentioning

There was

little

—not

a special

commis-

Nixon wanted

to hold

of protest was leaked to the Washington

Haldeman wrote

in his diary,

was "designed

P

calm about

the 'collapse of the presidency' theory.

pretty

it

to

enhance

last night,

Big

Man

on Campus

97

pretty cold-blooded today. Feels Hickel's got to this crisis."'

[Seven months

later,

Hickel was

go

fired.]

as

soon as we're past

Haldeman

continued:

"This led to a rising 'anti-cabinet' feeling as he [Nixon] thought more about [on

it.

Went back

deep resentment that none called him

to

Cambodia] and none

rose to his defense

on

this deal.

after speech

So he struck

back by ordering the tennis court removed immediately. Feels cabinet

own

should work on

intiative to

support

P,

and they haven't."

5

Ironically,

one of the heavy users of the White House tennis court was Agnew,

was defending Nixon on Cambodia more Nevertheless,

Hickel

result of the to avoid

Haldeman letter,

referred in the diary to "an

and

VP

said he

would

P

stories that

any remarks about students,

the word.

forcefully than

act only

etc.;

is

anyone

Agnew

who

else.

problem,

muzzling him. Wants

VP strongly

disagrees.

I

VP

passed

Agnew

6

on order of P." Once again,

was smarting over directions from an unelected presidential subordinate. Shortly after the

Kent

State shootings,

Cambodian

discuss the

Nixon went

to the

Pentagon

and afterward referred

situation

to

to college

demonstrators as "these bums, blowing up campuses. "A group of university

presidents

met with Nixon,

protested strongly about both his and

Ag-

new's comments, and urged the president to refrain from further hostile

remarks about students. Nixon assured them he would do university presidents

had

left,

Haldeman

with

it."

The

campus

visiting academics,

revolt

Haldeman

and

a lot of

is

"all

to blow."

a

general.

blame Agnew

that without

so bad, but that even without

campuses ready

life in

me on

basically helpless to deal

wrote,

marily, then P's 'bums' crack. General feeling

would not have been

After the

wrote, Nixon "took

tour of south grounds to discuss tennis court removal and Feels very concerned about

so.

Kent

Cambodia

pri-

State

it

there were

7

The next night, Nixon held a news conference on Cambodia, preceded by much advice from Haldeman and others. "The hard line," Haldeman wrote later, "was mainly from K [Kissinger] who feels we should just let the students tear

it

for a couple of

weeks with no

effort at pacification,

then hit them hard. Most of the others leaned the other full

a

apology for the 'bums' and a tight muzzle on to Agnew's rhetoric.

Fortunately

P was shrewd enough

giving in on either." Several days ality

way and wanted

later,

David Frost

to

accomplish both objectives without

8

Agnew

in a taped interview

with television person-

said he thought the president's reference to

"bums" was

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

98

"a

had

State

Guardsmen at Kent charged with murder and their actions

mild." But he conceded that

little

fired first, they could be

couldn't be condoned.

thrown rocks

at the

On

the other hand, he said,

had the students not

Cambodia not been invaded,

have been demonstrations. Maybe

Agnew

so,

shooting.

would not

there

replied; certain elements

over anything. As for Hickel, he said, he probably

to riot

hadn't read the

the National

Guardsmen, there would not have been any

Frost countered that had

were ready

if

Agnew

speeches in their entirety.

The

students were be-

ing heard, he added, "but the fact that they are heard does not necessarily

mean

they must be heeded."

9

There was Agnew's father-knows-best

As

assertion again.

for his

heated rhetoric, he explained to the British audience: "In a desire to be heard,

have to throw what people

I

in a while,

and hope

in

America

that in spite of the

damaging context

remarks are repeated, that other things which will also appear."

One

many

Agnew was

think are very important

I

not your garden variety vice president, about

The man's determination

whom

11

had reason

to

become

a

household

already achieved; in the Gallup Poll he ranked third

Graham among the most admired eight men asked about him had a fa-

evangelist Billy

America, and

vorable opinion. tainly

which those

jokes on the obscurity of that officeholder were part of the na-

name was not only behind Nixon and in

in

10

tion's political lore.

men

red meat once

thing that was getting through to the American people was that

Spiro T. so

call a little

If

five

of every

Agnew

thought he had a right

to

speak out, he cer-

to think so.

Reports, however, began circulating that the president had told

May,

to cool his rhetoric. In early

otherwise to reporters.

called

him with

He

sisted

a

Agnew

in Boise, Idaho, the vice president in-

told

them

that a

White House aide had

message from Nixon. "The president wanted

me to un-

derstand thoroughly he was not attempting to put any kind of muzzle on

me,"

Agnew

said,

"and that he was not opposed

have been saying." While he would continue

to the

kind of things

to criticize "criminal

I

con-

duct" by war protesters, "we never meant to imply that a great majority

of the students were involved in said at a rare say,

kind of conduct." That night, Nixon

news conference he would never

but that he did advise

"when

this

the action

is

hot,

all his

cabinet

keep the rhetoric

try to tell

members

cool."

12

to

Agnew what remember

to

that

Man

Big

Relatively speaking, lanta,

Agnew

where he substituted

memorial

federate

to

on Campus

99

held his acid tongue during a

visit to

At-

Con-

for the president at the dedication of a

Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall

Jackson carved on the side of Stone Mountain. But an Atlanta Constitution editorial called

Agnew's participation

shame and

"a

drill ser-

geant and the understanding of a [nineteenth-century] prison

warden." cooled,

Agnew

and

He

fired back.

week

Agnew

later, at

should begin

it

on the

is

editorial pages

13

of some of the eastern newspapers."

A

camp

agreed, he said, that rhetoric should be

think the best place

"I

com-

a disgrace" and,

paring him with Lee, said the vice president "has the grace of a

another Republican fund-raising dinner, in Houston,

elaborated: "Lately, you have been exposed to a great deal of pub-

comment about vice-presidential rhetoric and how I should 'cool it.' Nowhere is the complaint louder than in the columns and editorials of

lic

the liberal

news media of this country, those

guardians of our destiny

who would

submitting to the elective process as

would lower

he

their voices,

are unwilling to do,

leave the entire field of public

Then Agnew launched Constitution but also the

is

too

we

in public office

would

much

a fusillade Yorl^

must do."

he, but "this

I

am

If they

sure they

at stake in the nation for us to

commentary

New

run the country without ever

like to

said, so

and there

really illiberal, self-appointed

to

them."

of criticisms at not only the Atlanta

Times and The Washington Post.

He

singled out the Post's Pulitzer Prize— winning cartoonist, Herblock, "that

master of sick invective," for a sketch showing a National Guardsman with a box of bullets, each labeled with an

marked with Nixon's "bums"

Agnew

said he didn't

its

own

private preserve.

my

guarantees

So

I

hope that

paign

is

will be

launched."

targets he

.

.

to pivot

wanted

of invective and one

to attack all

as a

members of the

group regards the

That happens

much

remembered

as

it

to

be

First

memo

to

Amendment

my amendment

as

too. It

does their freedom of the press.

the next time a 'muzzle

far

from any desire

to shut

Agnew' cam-

away from bashing students

assailed

—key Democrats of

Agnew

Haldeman dated May

13,

up, simply

to three other specific

the Johnson administra-

tion he believed could be painted as responsible for the

In a

press, but he

14

Nixon, meanwhile,

wanted him

.

free speech as

bit

characterization of student protesters.

mean

was bothered "that the press

Agnew

Nixon wrote:

mess

in

Vietnam.

"I believe that the

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

100

Agnew

next

attack

—one

would come with great

that

— would

[Clark] Clifford, [W. AverellJ

Harriman and [Cyrus] Vance,

the three

be one on the three turncoats,

Monday-morning quarterbacks

men were

three

all

or

.

.

be built

I

architects of the policy that got us into

make an

think this would

up

in

other side, but

advance and

it

needs to be said and

it

other quarters as well. While he

drop ator

in,

J.

and

this

many Democratic

who

a

do

to

it,

.

These

It

in five

should

howl of outrage from the

have repercussions

will

.

them

Vietnam and

Agnew.

talking along this line

is

would be the time

William] Fulbright

it

.

were the highest

excellent speech by

would bring

or call

what have you.

that escalated the fighting so that our casualties years.

and

responsibility

could have enormous effect

few

in a

Agnew might

the fact that the likes of [Sen-

voted for the Tonkin Gulf Resolution and

when Johnson was escalating American participation in the war and now are jumping to criticism. You should pick them name by name in this instance." The task was assigned to speechwriter Buchanan, who apparently senators were completely silent

15

threw himself into

dozen days

Agnew night.

P

with a

it

in his diary:

"Buchanan has

a

wants

little leery,

in the

to be sure

Nixon had

that

not the time for

Others

it's

not too rough."

called "to

have

me

White House in

also

A copy

went

to

May,

Moynihan,

Agnew,

a

P

his

feels

into the usual trap of separating

He

him

stances of police overreaction

to

call for a federal investiga-

send a

and

memo of his own

frightening.

and dissecting

acts

a

to

wrote that he found Moynihan's

has become fashionable in the liberal

and outrageous

jailed prisoner,

prominent Democrat, sent Nixon

comments "disturbing and even somewhat

their thesis.

Clifford.

on

Augusta, Georgia,

after a riot in

inspiring

for Nixon's attention.

the unlawful

VP

later,

were concerned about the tough law-

urging him to condemn violence and

Ehrlichman

days

16

presidential adviser Pat

It

new

it."

sparked by rumors of police brutality in the killing of a

tion.

Two

turn off

tomorrow about Harriman, Vance,

and-order rhetoric. Later

memo

a hot

speech blasting Harriman, Vance, and Clifford, for Thursday

very tough speech for is

A

more enthusiasm than Nixon intended.

Haldeman noted

later,

Haldeman wrote this

bit

a

which may have on

must not

fall

fragment of a disorder.

community

to focus

We

to totally disregard

led to isolated in-

a single result

which serves

Big

"It

is

Man

on Campus

101

obvious from these reports that none of the incidents arose out of

improper police conduct. They

aganda techniques.

We

all

began with the usual

prop-

have had enough maudlin sympathy for law-

breakers emanating from other areas of government.

keeps the country together to be

civil rights

is

The

the steadfast resolve of the

trapped into such attitudes. In

my

only thing that

White House not

judgment, nothing makes the av-

erage American any angrier than to see the pained, self-righteous expressions of a

Negro

Muskie or

Percy as they attach like leeches to the nearest

a

funeral procession.

"Please be certain that these opinions reach the president. This

a

is

when he must not crack under the steady onslaught of pressures in direction. The polls show that the people are with him and not with

time this

the whiners in the Senate

memo came back



Muskie and Percy and

agree."

I

17

When

community."

in the liberal

from Nixon, Ehrlichman noted

the reference to Senators

paragraph: "E

and

Nixon appeared

to

had underlined

that he

jotted

the

down

next to the

have gotten vicarious

pleasure reading words of the sort he often had uttered himself in earlier incarnations.

Nixon, however, was more concerned about law and order on the campuses right

how

it

aides

now

in the

was playing

was

sent

at

uproar over the Cambodia "incursion." To learn

around the country

president's handling of the war.

to

One

sample student sentiment on the

of the aides, Lee Huebner, returned

reporting that "the most frequently quoted

was that the had

to

vice president's rhetoric

go back and

sense that he really

When

tell

him

wanted

to cool

was

was going

to get at the

And

presidential

did.

bottom of

more and he was going

to lay off the students.

the campuses

a thorn in their flesh,

down. So we

he did."

If so, the cooling off didn't last long.

new

comment on

he finished, he did say he didn't think

college students any

White House

various colleges, a group of young

it

it,

.

.

it

There was

to talk

was time

to cool

.

and we

to

it

go

on that

out.

.

a .

.

after the

front;

he

18

Soon

after,

Nixon appointed

commission on campus unrest that included

a

a

twenty-

named Joseph Rhodes Jr., an AfricanAmerican and an acquaintance of Ehrlichman's. Rhodes had been

two-year-old Harvard junior

student president at the California Institute of Technology

number-two man

first

met him, and became

sort of

when Nixon's

Ehrlichman's eyes

1

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

02

and ears on campus unrest then and when he went lowship. Ehrlichman wrote the war, Spiro

and

rationally, his

Agnew and all

later:

.

.

who

our talks were completely honest on both

New Yor\

on

site

[at

Kent

State

and

of shootings]" and whether the

putdown.

clearly a reference to Nixon's earlier

Upon

sides."

"were thinking about campus bums when they pulled the

Agnew, again

a fel-

Times he would "try to figure

gave what orders to send police on campus

Jackson State, a black college, also the police

Harvard on

secret about his views

Richard Nixon. But our differences were put

appointment, Rhodes told the

out.

"There was no

to

trigger,"

19

odds with Ehrlichman, immediately responded. See-

at

ing a wire-service report in Detroit of what Rhodes had said, he held a

news conference.

If the report

He

resign immediately. tivity

was

correct, he said, "Mr.

Rhodes should

clearly does not possess the maturity, the objec-

and the judgment

to serve

portance. "At the same time,"

on

a fact-finding

Agnew

body of national im-

"my remarks should

said,

in

no

way be interpreted as an implied criticism of a presidential appointment. Having used a relationship of mutual trust with presidential adviser

own

John Ehrlichman for his to the cloak

political gain,

Rhodes

is

no longer

entitled

of dignity that a presidential appointment would throw

around him." 20 Despite the disavowal of taking issue with Nixon, the attack on a presidential appointee

strated once

David at

who was

more Agnew's

for a domestic staff

a friend of Nixon's

political insensitivity.

In short

on the commission.

Ehrlichman happened:

at

Camp

later, told

him: "That son of a bitch!

it.

21

in his later

"Agnew

memoir of his White House

years wrote

what

belatedly realized he had given the president a nar-

row choice between shore up his

Ehrlichman,

demon-

The president wants you to know he's not happy order, Ron Zeigler reported there would be no changes

Don't worry about it."

aide

planning meeting, immediately called Rhodes

Harvard and, Rhodes reported

about

number-two

demand

Joe

Rhodes and Spiro Agnew, and he scrambled

that

Rhodes must

go.

Agnew's constant

ally

to

Gover-

nor Ronald Reagan had also been hit by Rhodes in the same press conference [on reports of campus killings in California]

.

.

.

Agnew

called

soon as he returned from Detroit to report that 'Ronald Reagan at Rhodes.'

Agnew

called

John Mitchell too.

Agnew called me

is

me

as

furious

back to ask

Big

if

I

Man

on Campus

103

intended to remove Rhodes from the commission.

I

said

could not.

I

him what was going on." Ehrlichman continued: "Near the end of the day, the president called, too. I said it was unfortunate that Agnew had created such a difficult choice. But it seemed to me there were only two options: the pres-

Then

called Joe

I

Rhodes

to tell

ident could toss off the only student on the commission because he'd

misconstrued the 'bums' remark and opposed the war and Spiro

was against him, or he could repudiate he'd sleep on

man]

it.

The

make

Rhodes be

A

retained.

his scheduled talk to

few minutes

was

called to say the vice president

said

STUDENT.' Nixon

was

later Spiro

come

'too busy' to

our domestic policy meeting.

the [Washington] Evening Star that day

AGNEW ON

Nixon

next day, William Scranton [the commission chair-

called to urge that

Agnew's aide

his vice president.

Agnew

A

to

headline in

'PRESIDENT REBUFFS

had sent Ron Ziegler

to tell the

would not remove Rhodes. In my view that was the only possiway Nixon could have gone. Agnew was exceedingly foolish to have issued an ultimatum which would have required the president to repudiate a bright, black student at the very time we were trying to quiet the press he

ble

colleges."

22

When Nixon met the chairman to

with Scranton on the commission's goals, he urged

meet with Agnew. According

to

Ehrlichman, Nixon told

"He [Agnew] does have some ideas about this, and he doesn't have horns. At all costs you don't want him in an adversary position. And you know, Rhodes was wrong about Reagan. No one in California has been killed on a campus by any officer." Scranton replied: "I've told Rhodes to say nothing more to the press, but I'm sorry the vice president Scranton:

said

what he did about Rhodes." Nixon

and he was very mad. John Mitchell president



I

don't do that

said: "I

— but before he had

should have called Ehrlichman or someone.

man

answered: "No,

The about

sir.

He

didn't."

Creates

as

tually hurts

Reagan

called

me

my

vice

don't rebuff

conference he

a press

didn't, did he?" Ehrlich-

Haldeman wrote

in his diary:

"Flap

he blasted our appointee to Kent State Commission.

awkward

concerned that

He

too. I

23

night of the Rhodes incident,

Agnew

am

called twice.

VP

situation as Ziegler has to repudiate

would cut

VP

in effect.

loose like this without checking

him [Agnew] more than anyone. And

builds

first.

P

Ac-

up the guy he

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS attacked, a militant black from

[Joe RhodesJ.

Haldeman's diary notes

for the next

explain the whole incident and assure

VP

correct, but

blew

really

internally."

was

clear

25

If

it

we

can't

middle

in the

him

it

to

was not

meet with

how

VP

remove Rhodes now because of the feelings about

Agnew

much

fuss.

it

out

at this point,

from the observations of Ehrlichman and Haldeman

believed the vice president had to be held on a

to

a rebuff, his judg-

by blasting publicly instead of working

Nixon had mixed

as

24

day demonstrated once again

Nixon abhorred confrontation: "[Nixon] wanted me

ment was

E

and he staunchly defends the appointment."

his boy,

it's

Harvard

it

that they

shorter leash

from

then on.

The following

summoned to the presidential yacht Sequoia the group of insiders known as FRESH Bob Finch, Rumsfeld, Ehrlichman, George Shultz, and Haldeman to talk about Agnew's latest gambit. Over dinner, the president voiced his own growing reservations about his vice president, recorded by Haldeman later that night: "Quite a bit about Agnew, as P revealed he has a lot more doubts than he has expressed before. Ended up that we should discuss the problem and come up with basic recommendation for P as to exact role of Agnew and how to implement it, which P will then cover with him." day, Nixon





26

Ehrlichman wrote

later

of the same Sequoia conversation: "The vice

president proposed to deliver a speech the following Saturday which harshly blasted the Congress. Those on the staff the speech

warned the president

that

it

was

who had

a very

bad

seen drafts of

idea."

reviewing current vice presidential troubles, told the group, people to program Agnew." As Ehrlichman recalled, the table; he had the I

wrong group.

had both struck out with

furious with

Agnew

me

to leave a

"The other

I

Agnew

reminded Nixon before,

Nixon, "I

after

want you

"I

looked around

that

Haldeman and

and by now Agnew must be

over his Rhodes embarrassment.

We

couldn't

program

burning building.

three were liberals, in

Agnew's way of looking

at people.

I

doubted that they could do what the president wanted done. Shultz wasn't willing to agree, but Finch and Rumsfeld were. As

about

who might do some

we

talked

good, the president eliminated Pat Buchanan

and John Mitchell. Pat couldn't and John wouldn't. In thinking then

Big

Man

on Campus

about what motivated Spiro Agnew,

realized

I

take his presidential aspirations seriously.

Maybe he was

He

didn't have a clue.

I

I

didn't

wasn't a Nixon team player.

just a dedicated public servant

In any event, Nixon's doubts about

105

who

Agnew

wasn't too bright." 27

continued to

and

rise,

after

the president had gotten an earful of complaints from a group of college

Haldeman recorded his concern: "The Agnew question again. The college men raised it as they always do. An easy scapegoat. P wondering if we are all wrong, is he really polarizing the youth? Really hard to figure whether he does more harm or good. He's certainly presidents,

not neutral."

28

Other Republicans were reacting negatively against the vice dent as well.

On

Haldeman

raiser in Cleveland,

Senator]

Bob

was

the day before he

to

speak

at a large party

presi-

fund-

reported in the diary: "Flap about [Ohio

Taft's refusal to attend

Agnew dinner

in

Cleveland tomor-

Harlow maneuvered to Ended with Taft calling Harlow and refusing

row. Built through the day, as

get pressure put

on

to go, really stu-

Taft.

pid.

P

paign

really furious

[for reelection]."

publicly that .

.

.

about his attitude, and says won't help him in cam29

Ehrlichman

"Agnew would

way for Harlow Bryce."

a

book

said that Taft

had said

offend his black and Jewish constituents

Nixon ordered Bryce Harlow

.

in his

and

to call Taft

protest; that

was no

Republican candidate to talk about the vice president. The

protest,

although mild, was truncated. Taft hung up on

30

Agnew's Cleveland speech included what Haldeman had

called the

new" Buchanan attacks on Harriman, Clifford, and Vance that Nixon had earlier postponed, as well as his own suggested raps at Fulbright. The vice president called these and other Democrats "Hanoi's "hot

most

effective,

even

if

unintentional, apologists," and threw in fellow-

Republican Lindsay as one of his sunshine patriots" said,

seas

who had

split

own

party's

"summertime

soldiers

and

with Nixon on the war. Fulbright, he

had supported the American troop buildup

in 1964 "but

when

became choppy, the storm clouds arose and the enemy stubbornly

sisted,

one could soon glance

bright on the deck

down from

demanding

the bridge

that the ship be

and

the re-

see Senator Ful-

abandoned and staking

out a claim to the nearest lifeboat."

He

called

branded

Harriman, Clifford, and Vance men

as failures," singling out

Harriman

as

"whom

history has

having "succeeded

in

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

io6

booting away our greatest military trump

nam

mess of porridge.

for a

the

bombing of North

Viet-

As one looks back over the diplomatic disWest and the friends of the West over three

...

asters that

have befallen the

decades

Tehran, Yalta, Cairo

at





in every great diplomatic conference

that turned out to be a loss for the

West and freedom

unmistakable footprints of W. Averell Harriman."

—one can

Agnew

find the

charged Har-

riman with accepting the 1962 Geneva Agreement on Laos when nored the

likely use of the

Ho

Chi Minh Trail by the enemy.

Harriman's Highway have come half

According

Ehrlichman

to

later,

ig-

"Down

North Vietnamese

a million

troops," he said, "to bring death to thousands of Americans

of thousands of South Vietnamese."

it

and hundreds

31

"Nixon decided

that if Taft

and the

Agnew, our new Native American brothers might. Native American vote could be won if pursued. 'Let's put Ag-

others wouldn't have

Maybe the new on at least six Indian reseverations between now and November,' Nixon ordered. 'Let's tie him to Indians. And,' he said, 'Pat [Nixon] should also do Indians.'" Ehrlichman's report in his memoir gave no indication that Nixon was jesting. Over the Fourth of July holiday, Nixon, at his summer retreat in San Clemente, held long talks with his key advisory group of Finch, Rumsfeld, Ehrlichman, Shultz, and Haldeman, including discussion of the 32

forthcoming midterm election campaign. to

have

Agnew

growing

downshifted to a supportive,

feeling that he

his diary:

underscored Nixon's desire

It

"Most of

was becoming too

FRESH

less

combative role amid a

divisive.

Haldeman wrote

meeting was about VP,

how

to define

in

and

then implement his role. P feels his [own] role must be above the battle, maybe no candidate speaking, just push on foreign policy and overall administration posture. Thinks VP can supplement. Use him primarily on fund-raising, get

not try to to

make

him

to use a

stump speech

instead of always a

national news, build candidate.

Agreed

new

one,

VP can't continue

appear to be an unreasonable figure, and against everything. Must go

over to positive and especially avoid personal attacks. Congress. Problem

is

he has no

given him adequate guidance. Agreed to travel with him."

Okay

to attack

P has not my idea of having Harlow

close advisors or friends and

33

Around the same time, Ehrlichman wrote in his book later, Nixon asked him one day: "Do you think Agnew's too rough? Could we just use him in

Man

Big

on Campus

November? His style isn't the problem, it's the content of He's got to be more positive. He must avoid all personal at-

fund-raising until

what he

says.

on people; he can take on Congress

tacks

From Haldeman's

as a unit, not as individuals."

notes and Erhlichman's recollections,

it

Nixon was getting concerned about Agnew's growing

that

was

34

clear

popularity,

prominence, and independence. His cautions on going positive and

chewing personal

might be overplaying the

Back in

Washington

in

afternoon at

EOB

role of Nixon's

few days

a

to take

agreed that he (VP)

is

Haldeman

on

"Had meeting about plan for VP. P wrote:

responsibility (to travel with

he's basically agreed, didn't

gun

the big

for

have

may

VP and

much

of-

choice. All

campaign, but must not use

P

rhetoric, personal attacks, racism, anti-youth.

be destroyed by forces he just

later,

his vice president

Nixon.

[Executive Office Building],

made pitch to Harlow fer him guidance) and overblown

thought

assaults suggested that he

es-

fears

he will

underestimate. Feels, too, that he must not

be limp guy praising Family Assistance Plan. Should be strong, vig-

orous, kick Congress, praise

from time

P, lay

off kids, blacks

to time, kick the bejesus out of the

and ne'er-do

wells,

and

networks, to keep them

honest. Imperative that he shift thinking to terms of local play, no national headlines,

notes,

that

Must build

he added that Nixon emphasized that

"what counts

As

for the candidate."-' In

is

how many

states

wanted

in the South.

to

do or say

Agnew, who

Agnew had

fall

reminded

campaign, Nixon made clear

as little as possible earlier

to be

you win/

part of the discussion about the

that he

Haldeman's private

about school desegregation

had advocated

a stronger courtship of

white southerners to remind them that the Nixon administration was the first

more than

in

Union,"

37

a century "to

wrote: "P

quires.

into the

did not hesitate to disagree. In an early August meeting with

Nixon, Mitchell, Attorney General

man

welcome the South back

No

made

political

it

Elliot Richardson,

absolutely clear

gain for us.

no one

Do what

is

is

to

and

others,

Halde-

do more than law

necessary,

low

re-

profile, don't

kick South around. All appeared to agree and seemed optimistic, except

VP,

who

felt

they were glossing over the problem, especially about bu-

reaucracy not on our side being overzealous.

Agnew,

clearly,

was not

side the administration.

VP argued

pessimism." 38

a figure reluctant to say his piece, inside or out-

For

all

of Nixon's desires to have his vice presi-

dent show more restraint, over the

rest

of the

summer

leading up to the

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

io8

campaign he did not lower

He

his voice.

called

Democrats who backed

an amendment against future use of American troops sandras of the Senate.

freedom of

action,

.

.

trying to forge

Cambodia "Casnew chains upon the president's

"and charged the "Fulbright claque

He

with providing "great comfort" to the enemy. Hatfield bipartisan first

amendment on ending

volleys in his party's effort to

It

called a

Senate"

McGovern-

"a blueprint for the

was

all

part of advance

purge the Senate of Vietnam doves and pos-

in the

White House wanted

young, ultraconservative Haldeman aide,

a

39

in the

gain Senate control in November.

Not everyone be

war

the

defeat in the history of the United States."

sibly

in

made

memo

set loose

a

Tom

cooled-down Agnew.

A

Charles Huston, soon to

new White House unit on internal snooping, wrote Haldeman around this time urging that the vice president be

director of a to

on tax-exempt foundations

Buchanan has been researching

of the administration: "Pat

critical

the activities of Ford, Brookings

and

other tax-exempt organizations for some time in anticipation of preparing a series of broadsides for the Veep to launch. These attacks would be

on higher and

less

vulnerable ground than an attack based merely on

their anti-Adminisration foreign policy briefings,

more

effective. In short, the material

these outfits

and

is

available to blast the hell out of

to scare the living hell out of

missioner Randolph]

Thrower

is

and thus would be

them, assuming fIRS

Com-

willing to cooperate even passively.

I

suggest that Pat be asked to crank these speeches out and that the Veep

unload

at the earliest possible time.

"There

is

also the

low road which should not be passed

by.

We

can

gather a great deal of material about the pro-Hanoi and anti-American activities

of some of these outfits which would arouse the wrath of the un-

enlightened folks west of the Appalachians. other White

House

aide]

and

I

I

think John

some

fan-

could pull this material together and put

together a hefty package which could be turned over to the Hill and

Lehman

friendly columnists to soften

some people on

up the enemy

in anticipa-

40

more gentlemanly attacks." Before undertaking his fall campaign assignment, Agnew made a second Asian trip, a nine-day visit to five countries that was a further tion of the Veep's

demonstration of Nixon's confidence vations as dutifully recorded by

the trip

was

to assuage the

in his stand-in, in spite

of his reser-

Haldeman. Agnew's main challenge on

South Korean government about American

Big

Man

on Campus

withdraw twenty thousand men and replace them with more

plans to

He

weapons.

largely succeeded,

porters en route to

Korea

we

new regime

can to help" the

and

his only near-gaffe

that the administration

Phnom

was

in telling re-

would "do everything

of Lon Nol in Cambodia, setting off spec-

41 ulation on the dispatch of U.S. troops there.

in

109

Agnew

clarified his

remarks

Penh, saying he had not meant to imply any American military

involvement, and on his return home, administration aides praised him for clearing all diplomatic thickets. It

was

a

supremely confident Spiro

the domestic role that

country.

As

out to mobilize cially

had

in fact

the self-appointed its

voters in

Agnew who now

made him

who

stood in the

domestic policy.

November

weapon was

way of

The man who had

a secret

greater zeal than ever.

household name

spokesman of the to drive

from the Senate, those Democrats and

election

a

the

a

turned again to in his

own

Silent Majority, he set

from Congress, and espe-

few Republicans up

Nixon agenda

for re-

in foreign

and

started out as Nixon's secret political

no more, and he approached the challenge with

1

Chapter

8

PURGE OF THE RADIC-LIBS

Richard Nixon knew well the importance sional

midterm

elections. In 1954

and 1958,

as

of the congres-

Eisenhower's vice president,

he had labored hard in behalf of Republican candidates to maximize sup-

House and Senate

port in the

And

for his administration's legislative agenda.

in 1966, as a private citizen,

tions to resurrect his

own

dates across the country

whopping So

was primed ticular eye

political fortunes,

and taking major

forty-seven seats in the

as the

campaigning

for

GOP candi-

credit for his party's gain of a

House of Representatives.

country approached the midterm elections of 1970, Nixon to

send his

own

vice president onto the hustings with a par-

on the U.S. Senate, where

party allegiance

would

create a

ident of the Senate, Spiro T.

had been elected

to the

defeat of Republican that a

he had used the so-called off-year elec-

50-50

Agnew.

a tie

pickup of seven that could be

seats

and strong

broken by the pres-

Six years earlier, a host of Democrats

Senate in the

wake of

the crushing presidential

nominee Barry Goldwater, and Nixon calculated

number of them would be vulnerable running

for reelection with-

out the advantage of having an incumbent Democratic president,

Johnson, at the head of their

With called

that general

Agnew

along with a

in

bit

game

Lyndon

ticket.

plan in mind, Nixon, in early August of 1970,

and delivered

his

marching orders

for the

of political wisdom he had learned from his

campaign,

own

personal

1 1

I

I

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

2

experience as a seasoned stumper. In every contest in which he was en-

gaged, from his

first

race for a U.S.

House

Nixon had won when he had run

successful election as president in 1968, as a candidate

of the "out" party.

He

seat in California in 1946 to his

had done so

in his election to the

Senate in 1950, for vice president in 1952, and for president in 1968, each

time attacking the incumbent party.

campaigned House,

in defense

in 1954, 1958,

political

when he had

the other hand,

of the "in" party with a Republican in the White

and 1960, he was on the losing

side. It

did not take

genius to conclude that going on the attack, and the harder the

was the

better,

On

surest ticket to electoral success.

But Nixon also knew that a candidate did not have "out" party to be a winner

if

to

come from

he could manage to campaign as

the "out" candidate. Democratic President Harry

Truman

if

the

he were

in 1948

had

proved the point by running for reelection against what he called "the donothing Congress" controlled by the Republicans. blocking his program

at

and

accused them of

every turn, and won. This time around, in 1970,

Nixon would have Agnew, party,

He

despite the fact that they

go hammer and tongs

especially the Senate,

were part of the "in"

after the Democratic-controlled Congress,

which was making

his life difficult, particularly

over the Vietnam War.

With Agnew, Nixon had only

to

preach to the choir; he already had a

convinced student, indeed a prize student,

in attack politics against select

members of the

Senate. His vice president

was

rally the Silent

Majority in the fight against liberal foes he identified as

downright the

radicals.

Agnew arm

raising

Nixon had by now warmed

personality.

stump manner and

ready, willing,

He

rhetoric,

to bankroll

to the

Agnew

and able

style if

to

not

supported and enjoyed

his slashing

and he opened the spigot of his

party's fund-

fully

whatever

his vice president required to slay the

opposition candidates. In subsequent high-level planning meetings for the off-year election

campaign, Nixon brought

in

Bryce Harlow, the trusted and level-headed

veteran of the Eisenhower years. Bill Safire, the

closely

and

assaults

academia.

A

in

turn recruited Pat Buchanan and

two Nixon administration speechwriters already working

enthusiastically with

on the

He

Agnew

in his

now

famous, or infamous,

liberal establishment, including the press, television,

and

fourth aide, Martin Anderson, a young and amiable issues

specialist, also joined

Nixon and Agnew

in crafting the fall

campaign.

Purge of the Radic-Libs

Nixon California hand

Finally, another old

Murray Chotiner, was added

The

in the art

of attack

politics,

to the brew.

would be a two-pronged weapon, firing up the smoking rhetoric while raising large amounts of cam-

vice president

faithful

with his

money

paign

113

Republican Senate candidates lured into running

for

One Republican

against vulnerable Democratic incumbents. ticularly critical

senator par-

of the president on the Vietnam War, Charles Goodell of

New York, was also fingered as a target under circumstances whereby his seat,

but not Goodell himself, could

Nixon

told his attack

at

We New Yorker, a Nelson

be salvaged for the Nixon camp.

one meeting

"We

are not out for a Republi-

are out to get rid of the radicals," and that included the

can Senate. errant

team

still

Rockefeller

ally.

"We are dropping Goodell

over the side," he said, explaining that there was an acceptable alternative for Goodell's seat in Conservative Party candidate

eventually was elected in a three-man race.

Nixon-Agnew message for books were major contributors. The

In shaping the political

publican Majority by Kevin Phillips, then a

James Buckley, who

1

the

fall

first

campaign, two new

was The Emerging Re-

young campaign aide

Mitchell and later the influential political theorist.

It

to

John

charted the growth

of a basically white, conservative, middle-class society running through the

new South and

across the southwest

Sun

Belt to California that bore a

sharp resemblance to Agnew's Silent Majority. greatest concerns

water

in 1964

was adherence

and by Nixon

to

law and

in 1968 as

Among

civility,

this society's

translated by Gold-

"law and order." The second book

was The Real Majority, by Richard M. Scammon, former chief of the Bureau of the Census, and former tenberg.

It

Lyndon Johnson speechwriter Ben Wat-

argued that the decisive voting bloc was not on the

Phillips contended, but in the center,

which was where Democratic can-

didates had to identify themselves to be successful. said,

ries

And

was the similar concern about law and order,

and Wattenberg "the Social

Issue,"

right, as

meaning

in the center, they

called by

legitimate

Scammon

community wor-

about crime, race, and youth behavior. Democrats, they argued, could

not afford to dismiss such concerns as expressions of bigotry and thus leave

them

to

Nixon, for

be politically exploited by the Republicans. all

his

image among Democrats

2

as a conservative,

had long

before recognized the importance of being positioned as a centrist, and

indeed he often referred to himself that way.

He had won

the 1968

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

ii4

Republican presidential nomination by occupying a middle ground be-

tween Nelson Rockefeller on the

And bert

left

and Ronald Reagan on the

he did the same between

in the general election that followed,

Humphrey on

the

and George Wallace on the

left

Scammon-Wattenberg

right,

"real majority" in the center. In the

congressional elections of 1970,

right.

Nixon understood

Hu-

holding the

approaching

that to cast his right-

of-center administration as centrist or moderate, the surest

way was

to

paint the Democrats not simply as liberal and left-of-center but as extremist, or even radical.

In the pre-campaign deliberations,

Agnew

along with Buchanan and

around with the most

effective

means of nailing

the

outside the

American

political

mainstream. In

this

context, the regular party labels

would not

began

Safire

Democrats vision

to play

way

as

was conservatives against

do; the

more inflammatory

di-

liberals or, better yet, against radicals.

"Radical" conjured up far-out hippies, anti-war student demonstrators,

and free-wheeling

on and off campuses. Agnew, Buchanan,

intellectuals

One was a combination, such as "radillectuals," but it didn't sound right. The Republicans had already done a good job of demonizing the word "liberal." What about "radical liberals"? Agnew liked it and started using it to describe

and

Safire considered the possibilities of a

new

label.

the political opposition. According to one of the conspiring speechwriters

Agnew

later,

say he

that

"shortened

it

was the author. There were

was the one he opted

much

to 'radic-libs' himself. ...

difference."

team

the eve of

its

number of

ideas

and the genesis of

for,

it

think

we have

to

and thoughts, but doesn't

make

that

3

Shortly after Labor Day, traveling

a

I

Nixon had

(interestingly, sans

a final

Agnew)

to

meeting with the

Agnew

go over the attack plans on

departure around the country, and he was well pleased. Ac-

cording to Haldeman's diary notes: "Long morning meeting with cal operations

and VP's crew

for the

campaign. P

really in his

politi-

element as

he held forth, for Safire and Buchanan, on speech content, campaign strategy, etc.

Came up

with some darn good

he'd like to say but can't.

VP, which really

P was delighted with

hits hard. Really

and hang the opponents

lines

wants

and

ideas, all the stuff

Pat's kickoff speech for

to play the conservative trend

as left-wing radical liberals. Said to say,

'Our op-

ponents are not bad men, they are sincere, dedicated, radicals. They honestly believe in the liberal left.'

And

force

them on

the defensive, to deny

"

Purge of the Radic-Libs

it,

as they did to us

Birch Society] in

about Birchers [members of the ultra-right-wing John

'62.

4

Safire, recalling the

same meeting

White House, painted Nixon campaign have

He

trail.

TV along?

told

Don't

let

Play the wires and local TV. pretty carefully



in

Agnew

book on the pre-Watergate

Agnew on

the

plane: "Will

you

hands-on overseer of

as a

Harlow,

in his

charge of the

Agnew

spend time with the network

When

he was abroad

—and

watched

I

the only time he got adequate coverage

specials. this

was when he

concentrated on the wires and TV. Forget the columnists."

According

Nixon continued

to Satire's account,

with

to deal

Agnew

way he wished Eisenhower had treated him as vice president: "Don't work him too hard. Give him a chance to look good and feel good. ... If you get a good line for Agnew, get him to repeat it. Use it again. Every good line must become part of the American memory. There's a realignthe

ment taking

Agnew

place.

can be a realigner. If he can appeal to one-

third of the Democrats, we'll

The more

win two-thirds of the

races."

5

next day, the vice president was off on the campaign

as the

Illinois,

trail,

but

maligner he already was than as a realigner. In Springfield,

speaking from the steps of the

state capitol,

Agnew

said Republi-

can Senator Ralph Smith, under challenge from Adlai E. Stevenson

III,

son of the two-time Democratic presidential nominee, had to be returned to his seat "because in the

your country

just

cannot afford any more ultraliberals

United States Senate. There was

a

time

when

old elite was a venturesome and fighting philosophy litical

dogma of a Franklin

Roosevelt, a

the liberalism of the



the vanguard po-

Harry Truman,

a

John Kennedy.

But the old firehorses are long gone. Today's breed of radical-liberal posturing about the Senate

Chihihuahua a

is

whimpering

is

about as closely related to Harry

to a timberwolf.

.

.

.

Truman

as a

Ultraliberalism today translates into

isolationism in foreign policy, a mulish obstructionism in

domestic policy, and a pusillanimous pussyfooting on the

critical issue

of

law and order." 6

With

alliteration

typewriters,

flowing and Buchanan and Safire

Agnew was on

his way.

at their

airborne

Buchanan was the author of the

above example and in Agnew's speech the next night in San Diego Safire contributed "nattering nabobs of negativism" and "hopeless hysterical

hypochondriacs of history." Safire rageous alliteration was done in

later insisted that the use jest

and

as

of such out-

an attention-getter, and

it

.

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

1

was

certainly

There was nothing

that.

especially funny, however, about

Agnew himself later identified "radic-libs" as members of Congress who "applaud our enemies and castigate our friends and run down the capacity of the American government. who the term "radic-libs."

.

seek to overthrow tradition, whether or not

patriotism.

.

.

.

What

fectly horrible.

out of office."

Through

.

impugn

I

and

.

He

workable or not."

their solutions are

so

I

call

is

their

it is

effective,

said he did not

judgment, which

.

and whether

"impugn

their

think

per-

I

on the majority of the people

is

to turn

them

7

the

Agnew

campaign,

fall

zeroed in on the Democrats he

la-

— Stevenson, Senators Hart of Michigan, Albert Gore mire of Wisconsin — and on one Republican, Goodell of New York,

beled "radic-libs" Sr.

Philip

after

of Tennessee, Vance Hartke of Indiana, William Proxthe

all

hand off his bludgeon,

happy

to

When

Gore, a

fierce

against Nixon's

up

who was

with the approval and the delight of Richard Nixon,

at

an

Agnew

Gore

rally in

"for

all

War who

opponent of the Vietnam

also

had voted

Supreme Court, showed

for the

Memphis, Agnew

said his appearance

was

"in the

But afterward, he went downtown and

tradition of civility in politics." called

runner passing on a baton.

like a distance

two southern nominees

only too

and purposes southern regional chairman of

intents

the eastern liberal establishment,"

who "found

the temptation to be loved

by his Washington and Manhattan friends irresistible" and "his obligations to the citizens of dentials."

Agnew

Tennessee secondary to his

Greenwich

is

is

most sincere

somewhere between

located

Village

In another

community

cre-

said he wasn't questioning the "patriotism or sincerity"

of Gore. Indeed, he said, "he

Tennessee

liberal

in his

mistaken belief that

New

Yor\ Times and the

the

Voiced

campaign team meeting with Nixon,

this

time with

Agnew

present, the president gave his vice president advice directly, but not

about the substance of what he was to public



this

from

a

man who

was transparently awkward ers,

at

say; rather,

about

meeting.

And

fat cats.

just for the

to court the

abhorred meeting the average voter and it.

Rather than meeting with union lead-

he said at one point, according to Safire: "Rank and

more important than

Walk

ducks

—completely unplanned. Be

[sic

into a plant ]

of

it,

file is

one day. Be

Go

next two weeks and then the hard substance the

last

always

late for a

you might pop onto

unpredictable.

pus

how

a

cam-

for the color in the

three

weeks

to Elec-

Purge of the Radic -Libs

tion Day. a

Remember,

department

the airport fence

store, the salesgirls will

is

II 7

no longer

a

new

picture

—go

to

9

go right up the wall." Safire did not

record Agnew's reaction to these instructions from the expert.

Agnew did not need Nixon's advice on how common people. He had his own formula for success on the In any event,

his toughest challenge in the

to

stump, and

midterm campaign was getting

one rebellious Republican on Nixon's

hit

list,

meet the

rid of the

Charlie Goodell of

York. Before being appointed by Rockefeller to the Senate seat

left

New

vacant

by the death of Senator Robert Kennedy, Goodell had been a reliably con-

member

servative

of the House from an upstate Republican

district.

As

a

senator with a statewide constituency, however, he had to take into consideration the

new circumstance

as he ran for the seat

on

his

own. Fur-

thermore, the war in Vietnam grated on him and he had become a vocal critic,

advocating early U.S. troop withdrawal in opposition of Nixon's

disengagement through

policy of slower

forces. In the eyes

a

buildup of South Vietnamese

of both Nixon and Agnew, Goodell

now

fit

the defini-

tion of a radic-lib.

For Nixon, however, advocating or working Republican was contrary to his

was

success

his

for the defeat of a fellow

political instincts.

A major element in

staunch adherence to party loyalty and the dividends

always brought him in his

own

campaigns. At

first,

it

he was inclined to

hold his nose and support Goodell as preferable to his liberal cratic challenger

tative

his

Demo-

and equally vociferous opponent of the war, Represen-

Richard Ottinger. Nixon had hoped

to find a conservative

Republican to run against Goodell but gave up on the idea

when Good-

commitment of support from

Rockefeller.

ell

got an early and strong

With

the

State,

it

Democrats holding

appeared that there was

even had he wanted

But

The

state's

little

edge

Nixon could do

in the

Empire

to save

Goodell

to.

a serendipitous

Nixon an option way.

a clear registration

development surfaced that gave the conniving

to hold the

Goodell seat for a supportive candidate any-

Conservative Party, which during the Rockefeller gover-

norship gave right-wing Republicans a place to go, decided to force a

three-way race for the Senate seat and nominated James Buckley, brother

of columnist William

F.

Buckley. If the

new

entry could be bolstered

while the national Republican Party merely paid

lip service to

Goodell,

Nixon's reputation for party loyalty could be preserved while at the same

n8

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

The

time Goodell was being quietly cast aside.

smoke

was

trick

throw up

to

screen behind which the dirty deed could be carried out.

Rockefeller,

who was

Nixon or Agnew, paigning in

who saw

New

word

York

that

would be kept out of the

fall.

state.

Nixon hatched

a

and had no love

for reelection

want

that he did not

At

first,

But

as

was

that

down anyway, and

Goodell going

strength,

up

also

sent

either of all

for either

them cam-

right with Nixon,

was decided

it

a

"

1

that

Agnew

Buckley began to show unexpected

new scheme.

Before embarking on a convenient European

trip,

he saw to

that Re-

it

publican National Chairman Rogers Morton, as a sop to Rockefeller,

would go

to

New York, make a pro forma appearance with Goodell, thus

preserving a semblance of Nixon's party loyalty, and then disappear.

Agnew would go

Next,

loose cannon, niability in

and do

it all,

To

on

own

his

on Goodell. Nixon

a job

and was convinced

Goodell might bring him liberals seeing

ostensibly

in,

in

initiative as a

Europe could claim de-

as well that

Agnew's attacks on

enough, but not too much, support from

just

Ottinger fading, enabling Buckley to sneak

pull off the coup,

it

was

known

Agnew

essential that

ing against Goodell, but not before

in.

appear to be freelanc-

Morton had completed

his role as the

friendly national party chairman. Goodell himself helped the process

along by taking on the vice president and giving him a convenient opening.

Agnew had

attacked the recently released report of the Scranton

Commission on campus "pablum

unrest, calling

in his

it

trademark fashion

for permissiveness."

Goodell responded: "Mr.

Agnew

has long been saying that

it is

the

duty of men in public office to speak out against violence in our universities.

That

is

precisely

what

this report

vice president, speaks in balanced

time, Goodell party. "In

for a

was careful not

no conceivable sense

problem which,

office,"

as

we

is it

on

his radic-lib

his accession to

ahead of Vice President issue."

to let a volley

list,

himself from the leader of his

[the report] scapegoating the president

on the

vision interview in faraway Minot, licans

the report, unlike the

know, has long antedated "far

ercising constructive leadership

Ted Agnew was not one

—only

and moderate language." At the same

to separate

all

he said, and Nixon was

does

Agnew in ex-

11

go unanswered. Asked

North Dakota,

to identify

in a tele-

any Repub-

he disregarded the go-slow timetable and

blasted Goodell: "I'm not going to weasel on that question. I'm going to

Purge of the Radic-Libs

forthrightly say that

would have

I

election this year in that group.

dissident elements of our society.

.

.

The condemnation came even

a

.

Senator Goodell.

Senator Goodell has

his

own." As

Republican in

New

in

Lake

he was concerned, Morton said of Goodell,

"if he's

New

York,

he's a

York City,

As

Republican with me.

for Goodell, he

hammer him; rally to

jor article

a

licly to reject

.

.

at

I'm trying to

it

from an en-

was only too happy

might be throwing him

a lifeline

He was certain, he said, Spiro Agnew to pull the

that "the

it

will not allow

to

lever for

13

Agnew

man makes

of his

.

him.

let

Goodell have

opposes a president of his

when

In a

far as

November."

In Salt sistently

in Rochester,

"spoke

by persuading liberals to people of

12

Agnew

have the vice president

man

has cer-

left his party."

with him, Morton stammered that

point of view."

tirely different

day;

He

.

official, if insincere, blessing.

develop a team. I'm trying to build a party. I'm looking

them

.

.

Rogers Morton was

as

York, giving Goodell the party's

joint press conference

on

is

seeks re-

proposed and stimulated the kind of leadership that encourages the

tainly

New

who

put one Republican

to

That

119

own

public opposition to

political faith;

when

man

a

it

again:

"When

a

man

con-

party on the greatest issues of the

support of his president that

all

ma-

his party stands for a

way pubhas not been offered; when a also goes out of his

attempts to curry favor with his party's leading adversaries by gratu-

itous attack

on many of his fellow party members

—then

I

man

think that

has strayed beyong the point of no return."

As York,

for the

seeming contradiction posed by Morton's mission

Agnew

told a

different job than

I

news conference do



that the party

chairman "has

he's strictly a party functionary.

publican candidates, and as such he has to be a party think there's a time feels in

when

fact,

he

said,

can't support

So much

New

for the careful timetable.

own

hook,

at the

New

.

.

.

And

that's

York the next day

York candidates

—meaning Buckley.

be operating on his

little

to elect

loyalist.

candidates.

its

he was going to

private fund-raising lunch for

supporting Nixon

.

a

Re-

But

I

the vice president has to leave his party if he

good conscience he

I'm doing." In

.

New

in

what for a

for national office

14

Though Agnew supposedly was

to

White House Murray Chotiner

let

the cat out of the bag, telling a reporter

Agnew was

representing Nixon's

views. But Goodell refused to believe that the president

over the side. Nixon, he said, "was for me. ...

I still

was throwing him

think he supports me."

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

120

The

Hugh

naive Republican leader in the Senate,

said in a tone of desperation:

[from Europe].

When

are disposed to play."

"I'll

be glad

the president

15

And Agnew's

when

the president gets back

away, those

is

Scott of Pennsylvania,

who

are not president

reputation as marching to his

own

drummer validated the observation with many. At the lunch in New York, Agnew didn't endorse Buckley by name, but the message was clear. game away,

In Pittsburgh, the vice president further gave the

Nixon

"the prime

power those

mover of our concerted

radical liberals

who

effort to root out of positions of

had

When

White House asking Nixon

called the

home and undercut

frustrate progress at

our efforts for an honorable peace abroad." that he

his state, the vice president shot back: "I

Rockefeller disclosed

Agnew

keep

to

have no intention

cause of cries to quiet me, of being quieted.

And

I

think the president

tainly hasn't

He

leaves

it

is

out of

simply be-

of,

don't think the presi-

dent has any intention of indicating any displeasure with what far. ... I

calling

I've said so

aware of the thrust of my remarks.

He cer-

condemned me for them or tried to modify them in any way. up to me what I want to say." Asked further about Nixon's

support, he replied: "That's something the president will have to answer.

me put it this way Agnew was now in

Let

—you

full flight,

even for him. In

New

did himself.

going after

Still

notice I'm

still

talking."

and began

made during

the statements

I

his

his favorite target, in at the

his

words

recklessly,

remarks he

later said

statements Mr.

Good-

time in the House and compare them with some of

have been referring

to,

you

will find that he

Christine Jorgensen of the Republican Party." first

wing

Orleans, meeting with newspaper editors, he out-

he believed were off the record: "If you look ell

to

16

17

The

reference

is

truly the

was

to the

known to have undergone sex-change surgery in Denmark. when a laughing Agnew had tried out the line on Bryce Harlow,

person

Earlier,

his

Nixon-appointed handler, Harlow had pointedly told him: "That's

one

we

can't use."

18

But the vice president went ahead with

George Hinman, Rockefeller's chief political

mannered man and

a strong

it

anyway.

adviser, a normally mild-

Goodell supporter, shot off

a

telegram to

Agnew in care of the White House: "It is a matter of the deepest regret to one who is bound to our party and to our national administration by deep ties

of friendship and loyalty, to have our proud banner so lightly dipped

in filth against

view of the

another Republican whose only offense

issues

of

life

and death

in

is

an independent

our time. Reasonable

men

can and

Purge of the Radic-Libs

do

121

on Senator Goodell, but no fair-minded person can do anything

differ

but deplore your references to

him today

in

New Orleans."

Christine Jorgensen wasn't happy either. She sent

her own: "Blatant use of

my name

with Senator Charles Goodell

Agnew

in connection with your

a U.S. citizen

and

any way lending aid

to radicals or

any subversive groups.

my

I

personal conviction.

I

request that

I

too

much

Agnew

some

don't think

I

in the past couple

is

in

this

man

is

It is

feud I I

am am

contrary to

to correct these

Hollywood, she said of

of months has been rather

anyone and using a form of

appropriate to his

office. I've felt at

times after reading his remarks, 'My goodness,

White House, and

made

effort be

a bull in a china shop, striking out at

comedy which

political

resent the implication that

wrongful impressions." In a separate interview her tormentor: "Mr.

a telegram of

not only unfair but totally unjustified.

was born

proud that in

is

19

we have

a

various

clown

in the

11

one breath from the presidency."'

Goodell, calling for "a politics of reconciliation, not vituperation,"

sought to capitalize on the situation by challenging but the vice president brushed him

off.

day," he said. "I guess I'd be debating

He

quests."

all

whole

thing.

to a debate,

"I'm challenged to debates every the time if

I

listened to those re-

likewise dismissed Jorgensen, calling her

apology "a calculated additional attempt the

Agnew

demand

for an

had

started

at publicity," as if she

21

Through all this, some White House aides continued to insist that Agnew was out there on his own. Presidential counselor Bob Finch repeated in mid-October that the White House was staying out of the New York

which Agnew responded:

election, to

suppose he was expressing

"I

a personal hope, or a conviction, or possibly a straddle.

one thing not on a

clear.

frolic.

As

I

I

might

And

say has not received the express clearance of the pres-

knowledged the scheme

running

make

in

what I'm attempting

to

A few days later, Finch, in a Washington backgrounder, ac-

accomplish."

Nixon

feller to stay

just

Nixon administration, I'm

have a sense of purpose and definition

strategy.

me

I'm out here doing a job for the administration.

while everything ident,

the vice president in the

Let

to get

originally

Goodell in

a

coordinated White House

had "a gentleman's agreement" with Rocke-

out of New York, he said, "but then a poll showed Goodell

third,

as well

and we figured

go

if it

was going

for Buckley, because

Senate for the Republicans."

22

to be a

throwaway

vote,

we

he would be a vote to organize the

I

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

22

Nixon was back from Europe, greeted with disappointing news about how the election was going generally. It didn't appear that there was much chance for the Republicans to pick up the seven seats At

this point,

needed

forts, the attacks

cratic

on radical

liberals

pocketbook criticisms of

observations of the

of the Senate. For

to gain control

mode

how

of Agnew's flamboyant

all

ef-

were not winning out over Demo-

a stagnant

economy. Despite Nixon's

he intended to stay above the

political in-fighting in

of Eisenhower, he decided he had to join the

fray,

using the

trappings and power of the presidency to turn the tide. But that didn't stop

him from employing some of his

who would

targets in his audiences

old campaign tricks, such as finding

serve as foils for his favorite law-and-

The team of Nixon and Agnew was going

order theme.

out on the of-

all

fense as the "outs" against the "ins" of the congressional Democrats, soft

on campus and

street violence.

Nixon wrote

later

self after all. Earlier,

because in Ted

of his decision to become a

he

said, "I felt confident that

Agnew we had

Majority on the Social Issue.

had

Social Issue

rhetorical

Humphey

fact his salvos

right

on

Force

strategy

would not be needed

spokesman

worked

to reach the Silent

brilliantly at first.

up predictable for

first

in

hit

campaign swing, using the impressive Air

common

citizenry,

at the airport in sedate

who

— Hubert —but

campaign rhetoric and

with "United States of America" emblazoned on

short of him.

in hot

knuckles of the administration'

Nixon found

his

Burlington, Vermont.

He and

his aides quickly

made

its

long fuse-

whipping boys

A

small rocks about the size of a golf ball were tossed his

porters

Agnew

emotions

The

23

lage to impress the

he spoke

stirred

'the brass

outset of Nixon's

One

Our

were remarkably restrained

target."

At the

He

him

the perfect

I

combatant him-

on the run everywhere, with

liberals

pursuit. called

political

as

couple of very

way but

the most of

it,

fell far

telling re-

hadn't seen the errant throws or the perpetrators. Nixon im-

mediately labeled them as troublemakers representative of the worst elements in the society, a

smooth segue from

own message

who

constantly sought to "tear

campaign

pitch,

and Agnew's

television,"

Nixon

said,

his successful 1968

as well.

"You hear them night

after night

on

shouting obscenities about America and what those,

and

America down"

see

them, who, without reason,

we

kill

stand

for.

"people

You hear

policemen and injure

Purge of the Radic-Libs

them, and the

you

it is

And you wonder:

rest.

not. It

is

a loud voice, but,

Is

my

123

that the voice of America? friends, there

is

a

way

I

say to

to answer.

Don't answer with violence. Don't answer by shouting the same senseless

words

that they use.

Answer

in the

powerful way that Americans have

al-

ways answered. Let the majority of Americans speak up, speak up on

November All this

up with your

third, speak

from

That

votes.

is

the

way

to answer."

a couple of little rocks the size of a golf ball.

Force One, presidential

political aide

Charles Colson

said:

24

Aboard Air

"Those rocks

mean ten thousand votes for [Senator Winston] Prouty," the Vermont Republican seeking reelection. At the airport rally in Teterboro, will

25

New Jersey,

not far from

New

York

admission was by ticket issued

City,

by the local party organization, and undesirables with long hair or hippie

garb were turned away. Once front, the ragtag rejects

all

the

Nixon

were allowed

partisans

in,

were

in position

up

and when hecklers started

chanting their anti-war, anti-Nixon slogans, Nixon responded with a

broad grin and

his

overhead V-for-victory

He

signal.

then launched into

his speech, playing off the demonstrators. In Green Bay

crowd: "One vote however, was

is

worth

hundred obscene slogans."

a

just the opposite; every

hundred votes from the offended

Agnew meanwhile

later, 26

he told the

His

strategy,

obscene slogan might bring him a

in the

crowd.

accused the press of not providing adequate cover-

age of the Burlington two-rock toss that missed Nixon, referring to the president as "the target of a shower of rocks by

had never been

young

radical thugs"

who

identified by reporters as such.

As Nixon complained about

obscenities shouted about him,

Agnew

continued his hammering of radic-libs, even in places where no one run-

ning

fit

the description,

to fire indignation in

back

in

and he

trotted out

the

buzz words guaranteed

Dixie hearts. In Raleigh, he attacked "smug

Georgetown" and pledged

from Congress

all

that if

enough

"we'll have a strict constructionist

radic-libs

were ousted

from the South on

Supreme Court whether Birch Bayh and Ted Kennedy like And in Greenville, South Carolina, where Strom Thurmond

new

"the greatest

man

this

and Robert E. Lee," the other apologists



those

it

that

or not."

called

Ag-

country has produced since John C. Calhoun

vice president accused the radic-libs of "aping

who

twenties and early thirties." sively telling a

elitists

indulged in the Nazi excesses in the

He

topped

it all

late

off by mildly and defen-

screaming crowd that "those red-hots

who complain

I

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

24

about vigorous rhetoric are the world's worst

intemperance of expression. such invective."

With

this

and

libel

and

wouldn't," he solemnly intoned, "stoop to

I

28

Nixon-Agnew one-two punch

fore election day, political career.

in scurrility

it

was time

away only

flailing

to deliver the final

blow

week

a

be-

to Charlie Goodell's

He was already tottering, as seen when

he attended an an-

nual dinner-dance of Queens County Republican Clubs with Rockefeller.

The popular governor generated lusty cheers until he good word for Goodell; the cheers turned to boos and Goodell

With

to shout a

few words and then

Rockefeller's

unwelcome

tried to put in a

causing

catcalls,

hastily depart.

sign to

Agnew

up, the vice presi-

still

dent came into the state for a supposedly nonpolitical speech to the

League of the United

States.

He

by your nonpartisan, or should

my

political hat at the door.

contest in this state. After for Buckley] but, so

So

I

all, it

I

assured the audience that "constrained say bipartisan, environment,

will not dwell this

seems

to be

names.

I

trust

Agnew

— but

you

checked

going rather well [he meant

New

York.

keep things nonpolitical

to

I

evening on the Senate

no one can possibly be offended,

serve that there are three candidates in

don't oppose one

Navy

I I I

will chastely ob-

oppose two, and will not give the

will construe that in the spirit intended."

then launched into his standard attack on radical

liberals, justi-

fying the partisanship he had just disavowed by saying their views on national security

not

— very

tempting

were relevant

definitely not

to intrude this

sisted

while doing just

in the

Senate race in

yond the ordinary tional needs

may

to the

concerns of the

—attempting

Navy League.

"I

am

directly or indirectly or slyly at-

1970 campaign into your deliberations," he in-

that. "I

New

submit that the nature of my involvement

York manifests

practices of

American

my

determination to reach be-

politics in

order that larger na-

be served." Yes, such as getting Charlie Goodell and his

opposition to the Vietnam

War

out of the U.S. Senate. Without mention-

ing Goodell, the only Republican in the pack, by name, he concluded: "I believe that these people, so sincere in their beliefs,

gardless of

which party they belong

the security of the United States."

Agnew report by

to,

in

replaced, re-

before they irretrievably

damage

29

also took the occasion of the

David Broder

must be

Navy League dinner

The Washington Post

that

to reply to a

Nixon was

closely

following then Congressman George Bush's bid for a Senate seat in Texas

Purge of the Radic-Libs

The vice presiSome of my audience, "I'm not an uncertain man. liberal media are already plotting my demise. ... To my

dent told the

media who would

friends in the

day,

man,

Agnew I

And

either."

like

me

makes

a

job.

I

came

must

my

it."

that I'm about to be

Nixon,

in

president. Just be-

dumped down

Longview, Texas,

ing to help Bush's Senate bid (on Election Bentsen),

.

following up in remarks to reporters the next

comment

don't subscribe to

.

replaced, gentlemen, I'm not an

have a close relationship with

said: "I

cause someone drain,

the 1972 ticket. .

friends in the

insecure

Agnew on

replacement for

as a possible

125

Day he

lost to

at the

say he's one of the great campaigners in history."

This wasn't the

first

time try-

Democrat Lloyd

Agnew's defense, saying he was "doing

to

the

a

wonderful

30

time a question had been raised about the security

of Agnew's political fortunes. Earlier,

when

a reporter in

Memphis had

asked about the possibility that he might be dropped from the Republican ticket in 1972, he insisted, "It

I'm trying to do

is

do the

wouldn't disturb

and that means supporting the president.

We

Nixon. Now, whether I'm part of that or not cause the president

But with

is

the important office."

the attention

all

me

in the slightest.

best job of being vice president that

Agnew was

I

.

if his

was not

— not

Nixon met with Agnew again

Agnew

conclusion,

Ehrlichman

later,

President, as

I

ticket."

All

is

virtually

unimportant be-

31

getting,

and the

latest

place on the 1972 ticket might be in jeopardy,

then. Late in the

.

intend to re-elect President

approval

of his campaign performance from Nixon, he had no reason at

wonder

.

can do,

all to

and indeed

it

midterm campaign, however, when

to give

him

his

marching orders

for the

surprisingly broached the subject. According to

he "artlessly" opened the meeting by saying: "Mr.

many

questions about our 1972

Nixon nodded, Ehrlichman wrote, and

finessed the matter, say-

travel around,

I

get a great

"Of course, this far ahead the president can't say anything. Just say," he told Agnew, "we're only thinking about November of 1970. You can say, 'The president has shown great confidence in me so far, and I hope it ing:

will continue.'"

Nixon then turned

to

Ron

ported, and told him: "Ron,

president

is

big impact,

Ziegler [his press secretary], Ehrlichman reI

want you

to get out

immediately that the

delighted with the vice president's campaigning. He's had a

good crowds, and from reports we've had from

all

over I'm

impressed with the intensity of the vice president's campaign." Nixon

1

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

26

"Then I want you others to do some backgrounding," spreading the word that "the president is grateful to the vice president. The president knows how hard this kind of campaigning is. said to the others present:

He's having a big impact. He's partisan, but we're not doing a high-road,

low-road operation [which was precisely what because I'm the president of all the people.

I

it

was]. I'm not so partisan,

work with both

parties in the

Congress even when some of them are sincerely wrong." 32 If Nixon had

any reservations about keeping

was doing

Agnew on

him

the ticket with

he

in 1972,

a great job of hiding them.

Five nights before the election,

as

Nixon was making

his basic

speech in the municipal auditorium in San Jose, a large and raucous

young crowd gathered outside

to protest

him.

When

he came out, he

spontaneously climbed on the hood of his car and defiantly flashed his sign at the demonstrators with both hands.

shouting obscenities

at

Thus

him and throwing rocks and

him and he was whisked away, narrowly missed injury. The San

incited, they started bottles.

Nothing

as aides circulated reports that

Jose scene

V

hit

he had

became an updated version of

the earlier Burlington two-rocks saga.

Haldeman

and the intentional Nixon strategy

to invite vi-

olence, in his diary: "San Jose turned into a real blockbuster.

Very tough

described

it,

demonstrators shouting '1-2-3-4 etc' on the way into auditorium. Tried to

storm the doors after

the

way

out.

We

we were

in,

and then

we

and they sure

did. Before getting in car,

stalled

departure a

little

P

which made them mad. They threw rocks, out, after a terrifying flying

rocks were flying,

should

etc.

Made

a

make

really

major story and might be

was the

the road.

Rock

hit

hit us, rather scary as

first

'V

effective.

.

.

.

All through

to the peaceniks.""

the scene in historic terms, as he

time in

was often

own importance and peril. "As far as I our history that a mob had physically at-

to do, as if to embellish his this

sign,

we drove

flags, candles, etc. as

behind

V

but

Nixon himself described

knew

stood up and gave the

we caught up and all got out. Bus windows huge incident and we worked hard to crank it up,

etc.

the day [Nixon] delighted in giving the

wont

so they could zero in outside,

wedge of cops opened up

car, driver hit brakes, car stalled, car

smashed,

motorcade on

wanted some confrontation and there were no hecklers

in the hall, so

my

really hit the

Purge of the Radic-Libs

127

tacked the president of the United States," he wrote in his later memoirs. "I

did not care what these demonstrators or their leaders thought about

me

personally, but if they did not respect the office of the presidency,

thought that people should be

on

made

and take

sides

immediately picked up on the

inci-

to recognize that fact

it.

Agnew,

in a well-coordinated plan,

crowd

dent, telling a

United

sweep

States.

who

.

is

.

in Belleville, Illinois:

subject to rock

"When

the president of the

and missile-throwing

that kind of garbage out of our society. Yes,

from the

same humane way

society in the

interfere with social progress

and

that

we

what "humane way" he had huge Republican

rally in

in

separate other misfits

He

didn't specify

mind. Nixon, meanwhile, was

telling a

and of every

political persuasion,

35

the final Sunday, the synchronized team of

San Clemente

to

cern that after

their assaults

all

Nixon and Agnew met

compare notes and take stock of how they had done.

Agnew came

out and by his comments indicated con-

on

radic-libs, permissivesness,

campus

vio-

and rock-throwing, the strategy may have been trumped by the

lence,

Democrats' repeated charges of a

failed

of using "scare tactics" and "the big

growth

in the gross national product,

terest rates.

Goodell late to

On in

them

Phoenix: "The time has come for the great

After two hours,

trast.

time to

up and be counted against appeasement of the rock throwers and

the obscenity shouters."

On

is

interfere with the conduct of the

Silent Majority of Americans, of all ages to stand

it

say separate

I

business of one of the greatest nations in the world."

in

I

But

after

weeks of

as the Christine

The Republican

lie,"

Agnew

countering them by citing

new housing

selling

accused them

starts,

law and order,

and lower

radic-libs,

Jorgensen of the Republican Party,

be hyping prosperity. election eve, the

economy.

it

was

in-

and

a little

36

Democrats did

their best to

draw

the stylistic con-

Party bought television time to air Nixon's speech

Phoenix; the Democrats countered with a sober, controlled talk from

Senator Muskie sitting in the kitchen of an old house in Maine expressing

disappointment with the tone of the are those

who

seek to turn our

Nixon-Agnew

common

harangues. "There

distress to partisan advantage,"

he said, "by not offering better solutions but by empty threat and malicious

slander.

office.

.

.

They imply

men who have

that

Democratic candidates

for

high

courageously pursued their convictions in the

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

128

war and

service of the Republic in

olence and champion the wrongdoer. That

people

know

voted or

it is

a

lie.

.

How dare

.

.

What contempt

and sense of the American people

make them

believe."

Haldeman wrote There was

real disaster!

the

P.

air.

We

After

and the American

us that this party

all

must have

them

all

it

strategists

was

three.

kinds of checking

Democratic reply on

knew

until the first

"TV

network, in,

could only conclude

three networks). His production

all

what

it

to think

night,

and

a

I

think

NBC, went including to

we had

laid a

shots (for the

was very good,

we came

off with a net

should have been." That judgment was distinctly not

shared by press analysts,

him

and

they had been out-

Complaints poured

we

but the content and delivery pretty bad.

catapulting

de-

for the decency

that way,

bomb. Also our purchase gave Muskie three quarter-hour

plus, but not

less

is

audio problem on the tape of Phoenix

terrible

had bought

they

to talk to

in his diary of election eve:

and we didn't know how bad on the

tell

a lie,

37

Afterward, the White House smarted.

they

is

actually favor vi-

courageous in maintaining American principles and values

less

than are they themselves.

they can

men

peace, that these

who

later credited

Muskie's performance with

into early frontrunner status for the 1972

Democratic

presidential nomination.

Haldeman's diary continued: "When the

real facts

were apparent, P

was very calm and understanding, although he had been cranking

pretty

hard

effect,

I

it

at first.

think most

Considerable division of opinion within staff about net feel

it

was bad, some think

a disaster.

was good. But the whole mess points up the

rechecking on

all

these things.

We certainly

have nothing, and then Muskie,

too,

measured

as

my

hard-liners

still

necessity of checking

would have been

feel

and

better off to

would have done nothing." 38

Nixon agreed. He subsequently wrote with the harsh tone of

The

in his

memoirs: "In contrast

Phoenix speech, Muskie sounded calm and

he spoke from the

homey

setting of his

Cape Elizabeth, Maine. What should have been

a

summer house

in

comparison based on

substance thus became a comparison based on tone, and there was no

doubt that Muskie emerged the winner. As John Mitchell put Phoenix speech made

me

sound

as if

I

were running

it,

the

for district attorney

of Phoenix, rather than president of the United States addressing the

American people

at the

end of an important national campaign." 39

Purge of the Radic-Libs

Back

Washington on

in

Washington Hilton

the

to

election night, the

129

White House took

a suite at

watch the returns, and various cabinet members

Agnew held a party on a lower floor for his staff and White House aides who had accompanied him on the campaign, and later moved

in

joined the



ing

and

out.

White House party and Nixon. The news was very disappointtwo Senate

a net gain of only

eventually nine

House

seats lost,

seats

and

of the seven needed for control,

a disaster in the gubernatorial races,

with the Democrats picking up eleven

states,

including Pennsylvania and

Ohio. All

Agnew

lion raised

vider.

got out of 32,000 miles of travel and an estimated $3.4 mil-

was reinforcement of

He was

his reputation as a rabble-rousing di-

depressed with the loss of former fellow governors but

somewhat buoyed by the defeats of three Democrats he had tagged as radic-libs Gore in Tennessee, Joseph Tydings in Maryland, and Joseph Duffey in Connecticut and Goodell in New York, and the election





there of Buckley. Walter Hickel, the secretary of interior,

who had

writ-

Nixon complaining about Agnew, later wrote in his book Who Owns America? that when Gooddell's loss came on the television screen, "Agnew strode over to the TV set and said: 'We got that son of a bitch!' ten to

He was ning

in

far

more

elated about having helped defeat Goodell than in win-

some other area of the country."

An immediate

post-election analysis

spread the blame around for the

coming

in for a share only in

we

sault.

"In general,

"The

vice president

dictable

4"

from Colson

to

Nixon

weak Republican showing, with Agnew

terms of the timing and staleness of his as-

probably peaked too early," Colson wrote his boss.

peaked

in late

and with many voters

of course, no way to

memo

September, his

line

became very pre-

Once committed to it, there was, turn around; perhaps the tempo and approach could 'old hat.'

have been varied. Clearly, the vice president had a very healthy impact arousing our troops, raising

in

money and generating campaign activity. New York.) Once he had peaked,

(His Goodell strategy was a key to

however, his line became increasingly ineffective in winning either ocrats or Independents."

In an interview late in the

ated Press,

Agnew had

Dem-

41

campaign with Walter Mears of the Associ-

foreseen possible

tremendously vulnerable," he

damage

said, in light

to his reputation.

"I'm

of his strong personal effort to

i

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

3o

strengthen the Republican hand.

"No matter what

"you can be pretty well assured that the adverse

happens," he said,

results will be laid to

doorstep, the good results will be attributed to something else." It

turned out he did not have to bother himself about the

come. The Colson

memo

was mild and, more important

only words of dissatisfaction from

Haldeman

that

Agnew

Nixon were mild.

latter out-

Agnew,

the

Later, he wrote to

should "de-escalate the rhetoric without de-esca-

lating the substance of his message.

something rather than

to

my

42

He

should be shown fighting for

just railing against everything."

of their political marriage,

all

public signs were concerned.

was

still

43

After two years

well between them, at least as far as

Chapter

9

MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE

After midterm

sleeping on the disappointing results of the 1970 White House strategists awoke the next morning

elections, the

and, apparently with clearer partisan heads, found that the results had

They discovered

not been so bad.

that the election in fact

what they convinced themselves they had been seeking

had produced

after

all. It

was

not numerical control of the Senate or anything like that, but an "ideological

members who shared the Nixon outlook They included not only Conservative Party winner

majority" of like-thinking

regardless of party.

New York but also certain Democrats like Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, against whom Nixon had campaigned vigorously in a failed atJim Buckley

tempt

to

in

put George H.

W. Bush

in the Senate.

Bentsen and other newly elected Democrats, however, would not cooperate with this Republican fantasy, saying they intended to remain

Democrats anchors

in

organizing the Senate and adhering to their ideological

in their party.

telling reporters

ate

— counting

he had

These declarations did not stop Nixon from

won

"expanded notes from

which argued

working majority of four"

Bentsen. Nixon

Washington reporters and as

"a

editors

handyman Bob Finch around the country

a cabinet

that Nixon's intervention late in the

decisive in saving the day.

a

and White House

in the

Sen-

circulated to

memo described staff meeting,"

campaign had been

1

I3 1

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

132

At the

Key Biscayne on

post-election staff meeting at

first

the follow-

among the major business items were a cabinet shakeup in which Hickel and Romney were to be given their walking papers, and new responsibilities for the vice president now that his heavy campaign duties had been fulfilled. Haldeman wrote in his diary that night: "Discussed need for new roles for VP, positive and constructive. Environment, ing Saturday,

health, congressional relations, labor union relations, South, take

[Democratic] presidential candidates."

new was going role

to be

rewarded

2

The

on

notation suggested that

all

Ag-

on the stump with the larger

for his labors

he craved in matters of substance.

But

a

meeting Nixon held around

this

time with select columnists, to

put his positive spin on the negative results of the election, generated speculation that in the official

all

was not well concerning the

Nixon

family.

One

vice president's standing

of the columnists, Richard Wilson, the

pro-Nixon Washington Bureau chief of the Cowles Publications, wrote without specific attribution but enough footprints to source: "It turns out that Vice President

Agnew

make

clear his

expendable.

is

It

also

turns out that the Democrats successfully defused the law-and-order sue. In discussing the

outlook with his associates, Nixon

creasingly circumspect about

Agnew's great

effort in 1970

formed and what he the

Far be

said.

same thing Nixon did

take any bets on

Agnew

bettor really won't have

the race. ... So

it

Agnew. Nixon

and the it

for

enough information

going about the

new

his slashing attacks,

Agnew

needed

is

A

all

Still,

prospective

the horses in

a hostage to Pres-

in 1972,

he will be

it

were enough

to

keep specu-

of the controversial vice president.

Agnew was

rivaling

Nixon himself as

darling of Republican conservatives, and as well.

His

own

star

many independents

was

rising in prognos-

about his possible candidacy not for vice president again

but as the

GOP presidential

not run again.

don't

loved to hate. At the same time, he was becom-

and conservative Democrats tications

1958.

he sees is

recognize

for

3

political future

man Democrats most

ing the

and

Agnew

in-

how he perAgnew for doing

to criticize

until

appears that Vice President

columnist's musings and others like

By now, with the

Nixon

becoming

first to

him

being on or off the ticket in 1972.

kept; if not, so long, Spiro."

lation

the

as vice president in 1954

ident Nixon's political prospects. If

The

is

last to criticize

is

is-

standard-bearer in 1976,

in 1972,

when Nixon

could

Marriage of Convenience

For the time being,

at least,

Nixon was

133

limiting himself to reassurances

about Agnew's vice-presidential future. Herb Klein, the White House

communications

director, pointedly told reporters that in his personal

opinion (which rarely was not in lockstep with Nixon's own) "presuming

Nixon runs [in 1972], Agnew will be on the ticket." As for the criticism of his campaign performance, Klein said, "President Nixon remembers he had a lot of criticism in 1954 and 1958" in the same vicethat President

4

presidential role. In other words, Eisenhower's

Nixon had no complaints

about Nixon's Nixon.

Others might have seen the 1970 midterm elections

had played such

a large role as a

clude a host of party faithful

what the

which Agnew

Republican defeat. But that didn't

at

shortly afterward paid $150 apiece for

animated acclamation and appreciation

ter

run straight uphill."

the

Democrats

they "turned

He

histori-

declared the campaign a success in forcing

three years cozying

last

and

pinned on

transformed

alliterative

bucked the

buy into the Republican law-and-order

to

tail

actually

by cutting customary losses and making "political wa-

cal off-year trends

had "spent the

and Nixon had

whom?

for guess

Household word Spiro." Agnew accepted the appropriately plaudits by claiming that he

jackets,

in-

clever sponsors called "an intermingling of interested individu-

aimed

als

who

in

ran. ...

As they

sheriff's badges,

— now

all

up

pitch.

to radical dissenters,"

fled,

and then

they stripped off their leather

then turned to their constituents

Wyatt Earpy and swearing evermore

foursquare for law and order."

They

to stand

5

Nixon, returning from Paris, where he had attended the funeral of Charles de Gaulle, wired his appreciation of Agnew, calling him "one of the

most able and devoted Republican leaders

I

have known," and

insist-

ing that as "the great campaigner of 1970" he had been unjustly attacked. 6

Agnew now was As

a

reward

regarded as a strategic

asset,

Buchanan

recalled later.

himself and his family members, the vice president

to

took them off for a brief vacation in Hawaii. There he gave a long inter-

view all

to

James Naughton of the

New Yoy\

Times in which he responded to

the speculation about his future with seeming indifference. "I've al-

ways treated

my

political life as a sort

law," he said. "So

I

time or another.

.

And

it

.

suppose your public

of furlough from the practice of life

has to

come

to

an end some-

that you're not always going to be a public

doesn't distress

me

to think that that

may happen

—any

man.

time."

.

.

.

He

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

*34

my

said he wasn't interested in being rich but desired, "in

later years, at

be comfortable," and would like to write a column or do "some-

least, [to]

thing in the electronic

medium

—commentary

or

some

sort of interview

program." In other words, join the fraternity he had so olicly attacked.

Agnew

ished his listeners by saying that "time and time again

happen

vitri-

followed this ironic confession with a notably conciliatory

speech to the Associated Press Managing Editors Convention.

complimentary coverage of

prisingly

and

lately

7

to

know do

my

He

aston-

have found sur-

I

viewpoints by journalists

not suffer from ardor for

Agnew.

I

have seen Nia-

I

garas of words and interpretations erupt almost overnight from your fra-

American people with

public events, inundating the

ternity over

astonishingly detailed information about important people and issues

and

I

tion

on

have marveled earth.

immensely. world."

I

The

how

made

well you have

entire process, as well as

this the

most of

best-informed napeople,

its

regard America's press as the best and strongest in the

this

be a contrite press-basher engaging in a

bit

ing because of higher political or professional ambitions?

signing

admire

8

Could

clearly

I

was

baffled.

more

local officials

Or was

it

now

a recognition that

of fence-mend-

The assemblage

that

Nixon was

as-

substantive responsibilities him, as chief liaison to state and

whose backing he would be seeking

more venturesome

for a

domestic agenda, he had to cool his smoky rhetoric? In

mid-December, Agnew had

his first significant task in this regard in

representing the president at a meeting of the Republican state governors at

Sun

Valley, Idaho,

had been depleted tending one against

and he had

in the

his

midterm

work

elections

final governors' conference,

Agnew

himself.

One

cut out for him. Their ranks

and some of the

were

of Arkansas, had wired Nixon criticizing

after

Dale Bumpers, the Democrat in

hope of getting

blame-placing

mood

of the defeated governors, Winthrop Rocke-

feller

remarks

in a

losers, at-

a federal

who

Agnew

for

going too hard

beat him. Others tempered their

appointment, as often happened with

gubernatorial losers of the party controlling the White House.

As Agnew was of

all

the

flying to

Sun

grumbling among

remarks designed

to set

New

Yort{

the Republican governors.

them

time, Republican National

Valley, he read a

straight. It so

happened

Times account

He

scribbled out

that at the

Chairman Rogers Morton, on

a

same

mission of

"

Marriage of Convenience

commiseration

to the governors,

also

been tasked

told

them

that

about half of them

minute

at the last

to

to

35

ducks, had

He

put a former governor in his

He announced

one of them.

now lame

break some big news to them.

Nixon was indeed going

cabinet, but not

J

the surprise appointment as

secretary of the Treasury, considered the third highest cabinet post, of

John Connally of Texas



Democrat! The bombshell

a

jolted the

among them. Governor Frank

lican governors, especially the job-seekers

Sargent of Massachusetts, one of those whose job was not on the

who saw some humor

perhaps the only one present

Connally as the

new

vulnerability

in

it.

line,

He

was keeping the

he had

states

—Texas.

won

state

[Connally's appointment] had a lot to

do with making damn sure

He

had

lost

it

now

1960 and 1968] and he

knew how

in 1972. Plus the fact that

that for

some reason Nixon swooned over

would have to

it

liked to have

in the

In Nixon's mind,

would be



if

he got a

Connally

all this

stuff

fit

it

that this

twice in national elections

Democratic opponent

pivotal

9

in 1972, recognized, Sears said

South and picking up another big time he carried Texas.

was

asked of

money man: "Can he add?"

chief administration

Nixon, already thinking of reelection later, that "his real

Repub-

real this

[in

good

mold

maybe Nixon

done himself, except he didn't think he was up

10

it."

Nixon's political romance with Connally was

fast-developing,

with eventual serious complications for Agnew. As early as March of

him he had to be tough and rule his cabinet with an iron hand. According to Haldeman, Nixon then "was strongly of the view that he [Connally] would be ideal head" of his new budget office, but it didn't happen. However, Haldeman wrote at the time, "Connally tracks well with P and would be an excellent addition if we could get him on."" After the elections in November, Haldeman noted, "P was really impressed with John Connally at [Roy] Ash dinner last night. Wants to get hooks into him. Is convinced he can 1970, the

Texan had impressed the president by

be brought over

A

[to

Republican ranks] for

couple of weeks

later,

'72.

telling

1:

Connally spent an hour with Nixon

White House, during which the president pressed him sury cabinet post. That night,

on the plane back

to

Nixon flew

to

New

York

at the

to take the Trea-

for a speech,

Washington, he eagerly briefed Haldeman

at

and

length

i

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

36

about getting Connally aboard. Haldeman wrote that night: "He

wants

me

to call

Connally and give him

had thought of having

nally

be too good an idea. In reviewing that he

had only discussed

John. That the nally

is

this

P wanted him

push on

a further

Graham

Billy

call,

make

to

the points

thing with me, and had asked to

know

origi-

but decided that wouldn't

P wanted me

this,

He

it.

now

me

to call

that he feels urgently that

Con-

more im-

desperately needed in this position now, and for another

portant position in the future."

Haldeman then recorded to Connally:

the fervent pitch

"That he needs you

Nixon wanted him

to

make

an advisor and counselor, that we've

as

got to change the Treasury's system and that's important, but really he

wants you here that

I

fight,

as a counselor, advisor

has no one in the cabinet to talk

doesn't want you

to give

He wanted me

a

man

in,

to use

you

registration;

He

a long, lonely

you and Mitchell

in the country that affairs.

to say

politically,

in the cabinet

who

is

he

he wants you

he could have as

feels

you're the only

Democratic Party that could be president, and that we have

have someone

was

you come

up your Democratic

and international

his advisor in national in the

to. If

P does not want

because he thinks you're the best

It

friend.

hope and pray you won't turn him down. He's fought

will be his closest confidantes.

man

and

capable of being president."

to

13

high-powered courtship worthy of Lyndon Johnson, without

LBJ's personal nose-to-nose, bear-hug intimidation, of which neither temperamentally nor physically capable. latter-day imitation of

John Alden wooing

Nixon was

Haldeman went on

Priscilla

in a

Mullens in behalf of

P has a simpatico feeling for you. Please don't turn him down on this. The P, as you know, is a man to keep his own counsel; nobody except me knows that you're under consideraMiles Standish: "In some way, the

tion,

and

I

want

to tell

you how strongly

ture of the country.

The P

respects in this way,

and

I

doesn't have a

he's very

feel that this will

man

in the

change the fu-

whole shop that he

concerned about the whole question of

determining whether the United States or Russia

is

going

to be

number

one. He's not interested in the idea of political purposes, either in Texas or to get a

He

Democrat

in the cabinet,

and you'd be

wants you because of what you

The

are."

next morning, Nixon pressed

free to

do what you want.

14

Haldeman again

to be sure he

reached Connally, and with the president's explicit instructions late that

night his chief of staff finally got the

in

hand,

Texan on the phone and

laid

J37

Marriage of Convenience

it

on heavy, reading from prepared talking papers and

Connally's presidential ambitions. ary: "Interestingly

He was

strongly as

did about his taking

I

Haldeman afterward wrote

enough, he seems

ing the job.

clearly playing

it.

towards tak-

to be favorably inclined

obviously pleased that

I

He made

had

and that

called,

on

in his di-

I

felt as

the point that he wasn't just

interested in just being secretary of Treasury or any other department,

but he was very

much

help on a broad basis and wanting to put It

P

impressed with what the

him on

wanting

said about

NSC."

the

his

15

was the kind of offer Ted Agnew had thought and hoped had been

extended to him when Nixon chose him

running mate, and

to be his

when he had met the president-elect at Key Biscayne after the election. The extravagance of Nixon's appeal to Connally demonstrated how mesmerized the president had already become by the Texan. indication of the large

shadow he was

tions for a greater policy role in

certain to cast over

what already was

Nixon-Agnew administration. Connally, Haldeman went on, made great sacrifice to

succumb

it

make

it

was an

Agnew's ambi-

name

only the

would be making

clear he

to his suitor's pleadings:

of personal finances, and will have to

in

And

"He

has the problem

extensive adjustments. He's

apparently paying about $80,000 or $90,000 a year in interest now, so

have to

to divest

do

himself to reduce the interest load.

He said

he'll

he'd try like hell

because he recognized the importance of taking on the assign-

this,

ment.

a

One

of his concerns, although he

felt

it

probably would not be a

problem, was the flak we'd get from within the Republican Party, and the concern that they might waylay him in his

own mind

that he can

make

at

every corner.

.

.

.

Wants

the contribution that the

to be sure

P wants. He

recognizes the problem of no leadership in either of the parties.

He was

highly pleased and delighted with the P's remarks to him, said he would

do anything

to help

he does

this. If

it,

him, but wants to be sure he

he'll

do anything

by Connally, apparently really

could help his

Two

power

—but obvious—was

own

political future

to

that he

do

can help by doing it

right."

wanted

10

Unsaid

to be sure

he

by agreeing.

days after Nixon's fawning pitch to Connally via Haldeman, the

two met

for breakfast at the

Haldeman it

White House and the

jotted in his notes that day: "I've never seen

a personal standpoint.

When

in his

really

He

was announced

thinks this can really

to the cabinet

make

was struck.

deal

P

so pleased

from

the difference."

and the press corps

a

week

17

later,

i

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

38

members swallowed

the cabinet

was what Nixon hoped. As

anyone

Haldeman and

to

at

Ziegler to "get

tell

new

am

your

I

re

18

the Connally appointment,

this hostile

environment strode Agnew.

about their

own

plight, the first

own

brushing aside his

them blamed him. "But

it's

soon."

pointment

To

words he chose

I

to

Valley,

into

combat," he

said,

which many of

that they are not dead, they

They need our

rehabilitative political care

can return again to active duty.

whose

and

"Some of

far short.

fell

political

would remind you

the lame ducks in

still

Sun

role in the fight, the defeat for

are only temporarily disabled.

who wish

in

how-

sought to console them

If he

our most talented associates have fallen in

19

feels free

from Nixon saying "how

secretary's children a note father's acceptance."

were the Republican governors assembled

so that those

Connally

names of Connally's family and partners"

Considerably less pleased with ever,

to "be sure

Treasury. Don't be obligated." Finally, he also had

send the

pleased

re-

a further indication of Nixon's determination

keep Connally happy, he told Haldeman

to fire

good grace and the

in surface

Haldeman's words, were "absolutely flabbergasted," which

porters, in

to

it

ears the

And we hope

news of Connally's ap-

buzzed, the comment must have sounded particularly

insensitive.

But that was not need, those

who

all,

far

become

it.

have fallen in the

izations for their defeats.

they don't need

from

it,

What

Agnew went

Agnew press, but

it

when

it

is

not needed

is

they do not

and

assessment of blame

masquerades

moment

meaning

himself].

later that

among them.

analysis of columnists

They

don't

as constructive criticism."

he meant to be talking about the

of the governors not surprisingly thought he

ring to the losers

rational-

and neither do those whose shoulders occasionally

indicated a

many

"What

political wars, are excuses

repositories of the fault [obviously

even need

on:

"I for

one

am

was

refer-

not ready to accept the

and commentators who are ideological antago-

why the Republican governors lost, he said. The party should own assessment, not accept that of the "opinion makers of acad-

nists" for

make its eme and the media," he went on. "I mean, after all, where were they when we needed them?" This from the man who so recently had stood on his head commending the American press in his Hawaii speech. He

Marriage of Convenience

139

told

them he had come

"in this time of trial

with

my

necessary to debate with them, and

brothers,

by logic to

and

if

make changes and

marks

a "rotten, bigoted

was the most

Tom

among

his

McCall, already one

stormed from the

critics,

hall, calling his re-

speech" that was off the mark.

little

convinced

20

brotherly love

little

Oregon Governor

old gubernatorial colleagues.

to consult

if

to be their advocate for change."

But Agnew's cutting remarks generated of Agnew's most outspoken

and tribulation

divisive speech ever given by such a high official.

He

said

Governor

Robert Ray of Iowa, like McCall a moderate, said he was "amazed"

Agnew's speech. Only Governor Ronald Reagan of California and proper."

"fine, right,

not back press

Afterward, one governor quoted him

was here

and get on

remark

way

his

to pat

was

NBC

Sandy Vanocur [then of

boob tube."

Agnew

as saying "all

a lot of Republicans

And when Agnew

that the vice president

did

of the

had ever called on Nixon

to

drop

I

that they

is

News] on

go

the ass

confronted McCall for his

had delivered

speech," McCall shot back: "I'm not sure that he

it

Republican Party and the vice president"

to crucify the

and that "some of the problem with out of their

said

at

21

In a private meeting with the governors the next morning, off.

it

bigoted

a "rotten,

said 'rotten.'"

Agnew from

He

little

also denied

the ticket in 1972,

saying he had simply raised the question of whether Nixon would want to

run again with someone

who had campaigned

"with

a knife in his

shawl."

Another governor style

said

yours. "And after

two years of insisting

told the critical governors:

dent

is

just

ters

his slashing

"Any

that he spoke as his

schoolchild

an extension of the president."

Actually, that,

Agnew had defended

campaign

by saying: "You've got to chop their nuts off before they chop off

Agnew had come

to see

and he had become increasingly

sloughed off on him.

He

would know

own man,

he

the vice presi-

22

himself as considerably more than irritable at

having ceremonial mat-

did, however, miss

one such event that nor-

mally might have fallen to him that could have brought him some positive publicity in these trying days. idential aide

Dwight Chapin

sent

A few days before Christmas, pres-

Haldeman

the following

memo: "At-

tached you will find a letter to the president from Elvis Presley. As you are aware, Presley

showed up here

pointment with the president.

He

this

morning and has requested an ap-

states that

he knows the president

is

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

140

very busy, but he would just like to say hello and present the president

with a

gift."

Chapin

said Presley

wrote that he wanted

Nixon with

to help

drug

the

problem among the young. Chapin recommended that another White

House

Bud Krogh, meet with

aide,

the presence for a few minutes.

think

would be wrong

it

the singer and then shuttle

Chapin wrote

first

into

and Krogh "both

that he

push Presley off on the

to

bottom checkoff box, Haldeman

him

vice president." In a

wrote: "You must be kidding." But

he later approved and the much-publicized photo opportunity of the

King followed. Agnew was

president and the

out in the cold. :?

left

Meanwhile, John Connally was wasting no time ingratiating himself

who

with Nixon,

gushed public

new Treasury secretary about how to boost Nixon's

after another long talk with his

Haldeman about the Texan's ideas image. Haldeman told his diary a few to

nights after Christmas:

"[President was] very cranked up and enthusiastic.

PR

up the whole

subject,

and made the point

that

.

.

it's

.

Connally brought

much more impor-

we seemed to have realized to get across a more accurate picture of what the P is really like. He apparently emphasized the points of discitant than

appoach

pline, austerity, spartan-like

He

gating duties.

main thing

is

to

to things,

hard work, boldness, del-

what the

said that regardless of

emphasize them and get them

out.

characteristics are, the

He thinks

it's

very im-

portant that this kind of image get out soon as to what Nixon's really

and

that

it's

to the cabinet

and

his staff to

group, but there's not a strong

a fine

out talking.

would

mous

up

.

.

.

He

in

it.

it,

He

and

very good story to

feels there's a

said the cabinet feels

tell

like,

was

they should be

here, that people

about the way the P works, which would create enor-

like to hear

confidence. Also,

strong man."

man

do

we need

to get across the boldness, courage,

and

24

Connally, according to Haldeman, capped off the schmooze by comparing

Nixon with three of the

greatest

men

in history, telling

him: "Lincoln

was the great figure of the [nineteenth] century and Churchill and de Gaulle were the two great figures of the [twentieth] century; the big thing

about etc.

all

of them

Connally

feels

That one was

men

is

their

we

right

comeback from

should very

much

up Nixon's

alley;

defeat, not their

build the

comeback

and

story."

he often mused about

picked themselves up from defeat and kept fighting

his presidential loss in 1960

conduct of wars,



as

his humiliating defeat for

25

how

great

he did after

governor of

Marriage of Convenience

California in 1962. Connally's observations were patently self-serving, not

only in massaging the self-confidence-deprived president but also in

strongman of

deftly declaring himself at the outset the

a cabinet hereto-

fore lacking one.

In the

new

told him,

year,

Connally continued inflating Nixon's confidence.

and Haldeman, "that he had met

of the top bankers in fifteen minutes. is.

.

.

P

that the

nally

.

P,

competent

the only

it's

way

staff

man he man Con-

any president has

isolated to a certain extent, as

is

group

and what kind of a

he has allocated his time better than any

other president, and is

a small

has the best concept of his problems than any

that he has an extremely

he

week with

taken the opportunity to devote

about the

to just talking

.

knows; that he

be; that

New York, and had

last

He

man

to

he has ever seen;

and delegates more than any

a president can operate effectively;

highly disciplined mentally and physically;

knows

his people, their

strengths and weaknesses, and his adversaries and their strengths and

weaknesses, both foreign and domestic; that he's ruthless enough to be a great president."

was

All this

26

a particular

mouthful from

a

man who

intimately

knew

Lyndon Johnson, and Nixon and Haldeman seemed to swallow it whole. A short time later, Connally at Camp David gave Haldeman and Ehrlichman a dose of the same medicine, as Haldeman recorded later: "Connally thinks we should portray the P as a student of the domineering

the presidency.

past, that

.

that he understands the uses of power.

Laos and Cambodia, are demonstrations of

sions into]

of power.

.

.

.

Connally

he's

knew

doing

the

their great influence

was the same to lay

nally

it

is

two Nixon Nixon.

on thick with them

And what

insiders'

art

Connally had

He a

master

just said

—that he was ruthless enough

Texas.



of the

it

came

it

them something wasn't a bad idea

to flattery,

his old friend

John Con-

Lyndon Johnson.

about Nixon also could be said of him-

self

same thought had occurred

When

a thing

.

telling

obviously decided

as well.

from

.

is

high regard for their boss and

on him. And he knew that

as telling

had learned the

far-reaching in concept.

[his incur-

his perceptive use

that he recognizes that the Marshall Plan

what

That

to the

to be president. It

sounded

as if the

former governor of the great

state

of

Chapter 10

THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE

The

heavy massaging from Connally, so appreciated in the

Oval Office, only reinforced Nixon's growing disenchantment with Vice President

Agnew, who continued

to be disturbed

side looking in. Despite the assurances that he

nificant

of

about being on the out-

was going

have more

to

involvement in decision-making, he had been pretty

the administration's health care initiatives

mid-February of the new

year, while

by now, and

much

sig-

cut out

didn't like

it.

In

he was out in California on other

business, he took his gripe directly to Nixon, to the president's chagrin.

As Haldeman described lem arising the

P from

templated.

this

the incident in his diary:

morning was

in relation to the

VP,

"The

who

California to object to the health message as

The VP

feels there's

some

in the

apparently called it's

presently con-

serious mistakes being

and that adequate consideration hasn't been given he was misrepresented

principal prob-

to

made

in this,

them, and also that

option paper going to the

P.

This of course

created quite a flap, resulting in a session on the plane with [Caspar]

Weinberger thing.

The P

his principal

felt

feels

ment, that

the paper probably hadn't been adequately staffed, but

concern was that the

than working

"He

deputy budget director] and Shultz to discuss the whole

[the

it

out with the

VP

would come

VP

out of substantive policy develop-

to

him with

it,

rather

staff.

we've got to keep the

we cannot have him

lighting the

White House

staff or the cab-

M3

i

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

44

he must not get involved

inet, that

one feature and jump on

we need someone on

feels

can hold his hand, and

He

this.

also has

agreed to take

talking with the

VP

get to

call

down on his

own

a

real

need

and trying

ent.

But on

new

secret

to get

should do

that the VP's staff

up.

it

.

.

is

Weinberger

.

problem by 1

he asked himself:

P today?" Obviously somebody the Oval Office,

Up

to

at the gates

had

"How fallen

man

deep Nixon baritone

this time, the

his

by the recipi-

up

or

I

weak .

.

.

is

is

to

heard

insist-

don't

know

staff. "I

We

long

"We've got

can't spare Safire,

disenchantment with

really involved here

either starts to shape

Around

for his presidency.

the vice president's

Buchanan, or Harlow." Reflecting "What's

Haldeman

just installed that before

but you've got to get somebody.

says:

leveled with

Nixon's easily recognizable voice activated a

in there, Bob," the

commentary on

Nixon

Nixon

now, such confidences had been

ears, or revealed later only in the retelling

White House taping system

to do,

He

who

straightened out." In Halde-

this particular situation

this occasion,

get another

vival.

the one is

to build

it all

would have momentous consequences

self,

problem

2

later, in

from prying

what

is

also to try to untangle the current

concerns about Agnew.

safe

ing, in a

He VP who

the job.

Several days

on

has the confidence of the

decided Weinberger

we have

and

man's personal notes on

VP

who

concluded that the

this on,

because he tends to zero in on

rather than looking at the whole picture.

the staff

he's

not strong enough, and

did

it

in policy

Agnew him-

the vice president's sur-

can't use him."

3

Nixon White House launched new revenue-

sharing proposals with the governors, as part of a government reorganization.

Agnew had

been led to believe he would be importantly involved.

However, under the

label "the

New American

Revolution," the vice pres-

ident found himself relegated to the job of salesman on the

Shultz, as head of the newly reorganized Office of

nor, he

Agnew

felt

was well-qualified

a huckster for this

new

Management and affairs,

became the

that as a former county executive

and gover-

Budget, and Ehrlichman, as overseer of policy heavies.

stump while

to be in the

"revolution."

all

domestic

middle of things rather than simply

He

seldom had

a chance to discuss

policy with Nixon and he was forever being informed by aides that "the

president wants you" to do or say this or that

—an

old technique by subor-

An Agnew confidante said of He about He doesn't go for

dinates to get things done that they wanted. the device at the time, "He's learned

it.

it.

Thinking the Unthinkable

wants

to be told

by the president, not some underling.

that he's vice president of the It

was

M5

United

States."

in this contentious climate that

dent to substitute for him

He

Nixon's request to his vice presi-

annual Gridiron dinner, issued verbally

at the

through an aide, got Agnew's back up. Nixon himself,

had never thought of balking

Agnew's

The whole personal aide,

silly fiasco

as vice president,

any such bidding from Eisenhower, and

at

him

attitude rankled

doesn't forget

4

in return.

started in early February,

Dwight Chapin, he wanted Agnew

when Nixon

told his

to be his stand-in at the

dinner of the male Washington press corps' self-styled

which

elite,

fea-

members ribbing the president and other members of his The club's motto, often honored in the breach, was "the Gridiron singes but it never burns." Nixon was sick of being a foil for tured skits by

administration.

what he considered

his

enemy, and having

natured manner he seldom

Chapin turned

to old

to smile

and laugh

Nixon California hand Herb Klein,

duty and

communications. that,

"should you

On

at

who was

Klein sent Nixon a

2,

be of the

would most appropriately be

the on-again,

the time was the White House

February

still

mind not

the person

always on

director of

memo

observing

to attend, the vice president

who would

speak

at the conclu-

would give us another opportunity

sion [of the dinner]. This

good-

felt.

off-again editor of the conservative San Diego Union, call for political

in a

to

have the

Republican speaker [the Gridiron always had one from each party] another one of our

Agnew would

own

people." Apparently allowing for the possibility that

went

balk, Klein

on: "I

opportunity to build someone and

Bob Dole sent a

first,

memo

or alternately

to

know you have

my

looked

an

suggestion would be to consider 5

Rogers." Eight days

[sic], Bill

at this as

Klein and press secretary

Ron

later,

Chapin

Ziegler, with a copy to

Nixon scheduler David Parker, saying again Nixon wanted Agnew

to go,

but that Dole or Rogers as substitutes would be okay. 6

The

vice president continued to balk at being Nixon's

news-media

affairs.

On

"As you may know, the

February

vice president has

March

for

Haldeman a memo: turned down the Radio-TV

24, Klein sent

Correspondents Association dinner. the Gridiron dinner on

back-up

13.

I

am I

pushing hard on him

think

it's

to accept

an absolute essential.

Would you jog him again because as of this morning he is still undecided." Haldeman scribbled on the bottom of the memo: "Raised Q

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

146

with P



do

has to

said it

— per

P."

7

On

February

Nixon "had asked Harlow and Harlow

and then he scrawled across the page: "He

essential,"

it is

called

me

VP

to get into the

wrote that

in his diary

problem the other day,

[Agnew Chief of maybe he's

today to say that he did talk to

Sohmer about

Staff Arthur]

Haldeman

27,

the Gridiron, and he thinks

made some progress there." Around the same time, Nixon 8

essary to send a

Agnew

to ask

memo

Chapin noting

to

to attend

political aide

Charles Colson

an American Legion dinner

vice president has turned us

down." Colson added:

nec-

told

him

in his place but "the "I

characterize the president's remarks as an order, but close."

had

that the president

it

felt

am

not sure

I

can

came reasonably

it

9

Connally, meanwhile, never had any problem connecting with Nixon,

about business or pleasure. Also on Febuary 27, call

when Haldeman

from Harlow reporting "progress" on the Gridiron

up

the Connallys

to

Camp David

for the

weekend.

flap,

He

Nixon had

celebrated the

Texan's birthday with dinner and a special cake in his honor.

and Ehrlichman

"The P

selected

also

Connallys hadn't seen

which they

ter

it

and Haldeman wrote

in

Haldeman

in his diary:

the movie because the

80 Days as

and he was sure they would be delighted with

He was hysterical

say, 'You're

now watch

invited,

the World

basically were.

coming up, he'd great,

were

Around

got the

going

this closely,'

through

it;

as each scene

to love this part,' or 'the scenery

and so on.

He

obviously has seen

time and knows the whole thing practically by heart.

He

it

is

it,

was just

time af-

also got a

kick, as did Connally, out of identifying the old stars as they appear in their bit parts."

10

The Agnews were never

entertained thus by the Nixons;

their treatment duplicated the cold shoulder

and Mamie

Dick and Pat got from Ike

in the 1950s.

Nevertheless,

Agnew, seeing

his population ratings soar, especially

within the party, and with the fulsome praise from Nixon for his cam-

paign efforts,

still

had reason

to think

he was headed for bigger things

within the administration. But, according to

Agnew

press secretary Vic

Gold, such aspirations by the vice president began to chafe on Nixon and

Haldeman. "They

liked

what he had done

said later, "because he did pretty for him.

And

as

in the

1970 campaign," Gold

much what Buchanan and

But then he got too big and began being seen he became more

visible,

John Damgard

Safire

wrote

as a loose cannon.""

said, "I think

Nixon

in

M7

Thinking the Unthinkable

some ways got

Keene, said the Nixon inner could

to

tell

of him."

a little jealous

to

to the next."

some hired guy they

it.

They

Nor

outsider admitted

Nixon saw

it

was not going

Texan

the

—strong and tough

to be

kind of

as the

he would do

circle

of himself, Haldeman,

If there

was going

to

be any

Agnew, but John Connally. man he wished he was him-

real

of overpowering and self-assured, as

to the point

Nixon never could

the uncertain

know what

did he care for his stand-in's constantly trying

on the comfortable inner

in

didn't

disci-

13

Ehrlichman, Finch, Weinberger, and Shultz.

self

like

was aware of Agnew's petulance and didn't want

for his part,

bothered with

elbow

him

David

aide,

do whatever they wanted. They didn't think he had the

from one minute

to be

"

circle "treated

pline or the depth to handle things.

Nixon,

Agnew

Another

1

be. Prior to

bringing Connally into the

administration as secretary of Treasury, Nixon had said to Ehrlichman:

"Every cabinet should have doesn't." It

at least

The Connally appointment

one potential president in

Nixon's

wasn't too long before he began to think

tion the

man Nixon wanted

ticipated It

was

much

succeed him

when

to

Mine

vacuum.

do

to posi-

the second term he an-

Nixon was down on Agnew, John Sears said he was up on Connally. At the same time, he said, Nixon's that

lack of self-confidence,

down

rilled the

more about what

it.

over.

wasn't so

later, as that

to

mind

in

others. "If

pick you apart, he'd do

about himself.

and

consequent self-loathing, led him

his

to tear

you were out of his presence and there was any way

Of all

way he didn't feel so badly people who hated Nixon, Nixon had the lowest

it,"

the

to

Sears said. "That

opinion of himself [of] anybody.

The more Nixon looked

at

It

was always, 'Everybody's against me.'"

Agnew compared

with Connally, the more

he began to regret the choice of vice president he had made, and the more he thought about a basic change. In Nixon's mind, Sears said, "here's another guy, Connally,

man who Nixon."

14

who seems

acts like a big deal.

He would

to be well-off financially, a

Who

have put him

campaign, had Connally not

let

self-made

could get easily fooled by that?

in the cabinet at the

him down

end of the 1968

in Texas, Sears said, but

Nixon's high evaluation of him had not waned.

The automatic recording system Oval Office and jacent to the

in

that

had

just

been installed

in the

Nixon's hideaway in the Executive Office Building ad-

White House captured

the president's conversations for his

,

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

48

private use. Except for

who

Haldeman,

supervised the installation

Alexander Butterfield

—and perhaps one

two other

or

insiders,

On

were not aware that conversations were being recorded.

visitors

March

his chief aide

25, the president, in a long talk

captured by the recording system,

Haldeman

with

made abundantly

in the

Oval Office

grow-

clear Nixon's

ing admiration for Connally and his corresponding lessening ardor for

Agnew. As heard on ther

Agnew

the tape, he begins with another complaint that nei-

nor anyone in the cabinet has the

Nixon: "At the present time, I'm afraid they're not going tention to anybody else.

we

volved, all



mean we can

I

can talk about

Agnew and

just not getting across.

it's

Strangely enough,

They

raw, but

it's

to

pay any

at-

talk about cabinet officers in-

all

the

can't

somebody who could

president, I'd have

God-damn

rest.

God-damn

do

it.

If

get

it

across

he's

it,

they're

it,

Connally were vice

now and

good. But

then.

I'll tell

you

And this is the great advantage that John ConHe [Agnew] has a very serious lack of judgment, and he's

[Agnew's] problem.

his

nally brings.

stubborn as

hell.

Haldeman: day,

which

." .

.

"Yes,

Evans and Novak have done

They make

believe, perceptive.

is, I

there's several events involved here. First of

come, a complete 100 percent ideologue. dia,

and that everything he does, and

saying

last night,

Connally

.

[something obvious

.

.

else]

He

this

all, is

is

a

column on Agnew

Agnew

to be

started

me-

confirmed, Rumsfeld was

on media, and someone

would

else

his

concerned with. The other thing

own

start

image.

And

is

that he

it

was

totally

is

Shultz makes this point, that

it

on

.

.

.

he's

would hurt

with you."

Nixon: "His image. versities.

has be-

and [Agnew] would go back on the media. And

that's all he's

image

is,

obsessive against the

not interested to be anywhere you'd be, because he thinks his

Agnew,

the point that that

to-

he was involved with him in a cabinet meeting with

.Agnew

concerned with

I'm going to

.

.

Oh,

make

shit,

he ought to go out and speak to uni-

that suggestion right now."

Haldeman: "He wouldn't have anything

to

do with Shultz's desegre-

gating the south committee of which he was the head in

adminis-

ability to sell his

agenda and message.

tration's

over his head. See, what he sees

is,

that he

is

of,

you know. He's

our bulwark to the

and that he must preserve, absolutely lily-white and pure,

right,

his rights

and

"

"

Thinking the Unthinkable

credentials, so as to be, this

— any

is

and

Haldeman: "Well,

think he believes this honestly,

I

Nixon: "To hold Reagan

49

I

don't think

off."

Reagan off and maintain your

to hold

basic constituency over there.

.

.

.

tie to

your

They point out that he [Agnew] will lisThat he will not take any White

ten to no one except the president.

House

staff or



Nixon: "Or go

to the Gridiron."

Haldeman: "You what

to do."

can't turn

him

off.

.

.

You

can't

tell

the vice president

15

The matter of Agnew subbing

for

Nixon

at the

Gridiron dinner,

meanwhile, dragged on. Nixon, instead of simply picking up asking

Agnew

to go, finally did write

him

phone and

a

the personal note that the vice

president accepted as a request fitting to his

own

status,

and spoke

in

Nixon's place.

Agnew

In his speech, the

command performance on

his regrets that

know, he had pened

working vacation

in

Key Biscayne

I

hope

to

God

that

Prior to the speech, Gridiron

I

will

end up

John Connally replacing

I

And

hapI

can

Kosygin has a sense of humor."

members had performed

a skit in

one of them impersonating John Connally sang a song whose with "Maybe

—because

using the Oval Office. Don't laugh, gentlemen.

is

overhear her talking on one of the president's phones.

to

say this:

him. "The president

he was unable to be here tonight," he began. "As you

to leave for a

Martha Mitchell

man who imposed asked me to express

didn't hesitate to needle the

V.P."

me

Agnew

in 1972.

cracked:

Have you

"I

lyric

which ended

wouldn't worry about

ever heard a Texan trying

And endorsing Nixon's declaration of a New American Revolution, Agnew added: "But I'll be damned if I'll take the White House staff s advice and move my winter headquarters to Valto

pronounce 'pusillanimous'?"

ley Forge."

16

Yet

for all the jesting, and Nixon's continuing praise and propping up of his vice president as an effective campaigner, his early love affair

with

Agnew

1971, a day

clearly

had soured.

on which Nixon made

a

And

so,

on Wednesday, April

7,

major speech on Vietnam, he had a

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

150

long talk with

Haldeman

He

very direct way.

Oval Office that broached the matter

in the

began, heard on the White House tape for that day,

by lamenting the weakness of his cabinet, identifying only three Mitchell, Connally,

in a

and Richardson



as "big

men."

men

When Haldeman

mentions the vice president, Nixon says sourly: "Oh, Agnew," reflecting his

concern about having him in the line of presidential succession.

As Haldeman

and revealed

the VP,

VP

have the

to appoint a

say

later wrote,

Nixon "got

new VP under

the

"We've got

for that day: to do.

what? Because

he's sick or tired

Decides to

own

Get somebody

great.

Haldeman instance with

buy

to

says: "If

be perfectly apt to do

Nixon: Hope

it.

you

do something, but

to resign for?

He

know

resigns,

network and

so forth?

That would be he would

[could]

go into the television

area.

Hope's

TV business and all that. He could go into that area." .

TV?"

.

.

.

[Connally] on as vice president, in an effective way,

By

don't

of the job or decides to do something

Haldeman: "Yeah. [but]. Hope may not help." Nixon: "You see, here's the way, the only way really vice president.

I

heard to

Secondly, he's got the opportunity. He's tied up for

in cable

is

to

is

CBS and have Agnew run it." wanted Agnew to resign, first of all

Bob Hope and

playing in that cable

of succession." Nixon

What's he [Agnew] going

a television

is

which then gives the P the opportunity

new law

what the Christ

else?

about Connally and

thought that the way out of the whole deal

his

resign later this year,

on the tape

to talking

the law,

Agnew

is

to

that

I

can get

appoint him as

resigns as vice president.

I

as President

under the law appoint the vice president. Check the new, uh, law." (He's

Amendment, ratified in 1967 after the when President Kennedy died and Vice Presi-

referring here to the Twenty-fifth

vacancy four years earlier

dent Lyndon Johnson succeeded him.)

White House phone operator to connect him with John Dean, his young legal counsel, and while he's waiting to be connected, he tells Haldeman: "You see, that's the way the law was written. You have to find some way to find a new vice president. The president appoints him. How the hell else you gonna get him? And then the Con-

Nixon

tells

the

gress approves him. If he's on there, if he's appointed as vice president.

done.

.

the whole Congress approves him. That's the

.

.

.

.

You

see, if

you

don't,

and you have

way

to try to get the

it

has to be

convention

"

I

Thinking the Unthinkable

to

nominate him,

Democrat,

a

Connally, then after

The phone

— appointed

I

it's

But

a harder problem.

rings, interrupting Nixon's explanation. It

if

appointed

I

Dean, calling

is

back.

Nixon [making quiry]: "John, that's passed,

because

I

is I

weak

a

stab at camouflaging the purpose of his in-

that constitutional

mean

have to

it's

now

amendment on

in the law,

[hesitating], because

What

not?

is it

have

to,

one of

the situation,

is

my

daughters

wanted

to find out, the, uh, in the case

in the case

of the president, but in the case

doing a paper and, or

know what happens

I

presidential succession

I

of the if

is



the vice

president dies, does the president appoint and then [get] approval of Congress?

Why

happens It's

don't you go check and call

a good,

they asked

do

it,

good question.

was

I'd

be interested to

is

I

want

me what ought to be done,

I

said

I

know what

to

incapacitated or resigns.

know whether

that the, er, president appoints, because

it

does.

recall

I

When Nixon

.

.

.

Fine. Call

couldn't see any [other]

me

the month."

17

Haldeman, without

to

reason he wants the answer: "That's his big

real

(Dean, interviewed years

later,

was asked whether

he was aware of the real purpose of Nixon's inquiry.

one of

dent's reference to

dodge, but that he didn't

his daughter's school papers

know

about getting rid of Agnew.)

While Nixon

is

way The

back."

hangs up, he comments derisively

having told Dean the

My

when

because the vice president had to be the president's man.

president's got to appoint him.

thrill for

back?

in the event the vice president either

recollection

to

me

waiting,

at the

He

said the presi-

was

a transparent

time the extent of Nixon's thinking

18

Haldeman immediately

starts laying

out a

timetable for the Connally-for- Agnew coup. "That's interesting," he says.

"The

latter part

new] has

of this year,

when

things are on the upswing, and he [Ag-

a reason."

Nixon: "What

is

his reason?"

Haldeman: "Well, once he knows has reasons of his

own on

that.

I

[he's

on the way

out]..

.

.

I

mean he

think he would play a very willing co-

conspirator."

Nixon suddenly has the [Supreme] Court.

I

a brainstorm:

"Hey, Bob. Let

have a problem in the court.

Haldeman: "He wouldn't be

me ."

.

.

able to be confirmed."

ask you about

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS Nixon: "That's

on

it

would

my

"

— wouldn't want

to

that,

afraid if

Agnew

you put

of course."

raise holy hell in the country,

Haldeman: "He'd recognize Nixon:

much

problem. I'm very

and wouldn't want

go through

to

go through the torture of being



vice pres-

ident [again]."

Haldeman: true,

"I'll tell

Bryce has

is

likes it?" fast

crowd, and the golf course, the pretty houses. He'd

have no problem moving into practice, or if

himself a

He could move out, if he wanted to call it

that.

he wanted to go into a corporate thing of some kind,

damn good

He

bundle.

media, which he'd like to do.

no question

this

.

Haldeman: "The

make

I'm sure

said,

he likes hobnobbing with Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope,

said, .

Nixon: "He

law

Bryce and

to

"

the big money.

a

come

you, he has

It

could stay public in attacking the

wouldn't be bad

at all [that he'd clear his speeches |

Nixon: "The only problem would

at all for us.

There would be

with you or anything

problem

be, the only

at all."

would he

is,

get an audience if he wasn't vice president?"

Haldeman: "They

me

say he wouldn't, but

I

just

wonder,

I

just

wonder.

" .

.

You gotta get Hoover out before he's forced out. With Agnew, it'd be too God-damned bloody a battle. Well, some people say, have the bloody battle about him Nixon: "Let

and not about battle

you what

tell

yourself.

But

it'll

think

I

reflect

on

about Agnew, the vice president,

was referring here

to

is

us,

all

the problem.

and then one

that sort of thing.

concern that unless FBI Director

another darling of the right wing, could be persuaded to

Nixon devoutly

desired, the conservative firestorm of

on top of it would be

tred of

me

know

"I is

ference. See

he does.

still

Haldeman:

I

know

give a the

.

(Nixon

Edgar Hoover,

retire first,

which

Agnew's departure

he does. But his opposition, the ha-

him

is

violent.

Now,

that's just the dif-

point?"

"Sure."

Nixon: "And the hatred of me got the

" .

has 50 percent approval or something."

strong; the hatred of

my

J.

of a bloody

politically devastating.)

Haldeman: "He [Agnew] Nixon:

hell

war over with,

not,

I

mean, I'm quite aware of it.

the hatred, everybody's

damn, but people

war over with,

is

aren't

they're

still

gonna love me, and

gonna hate me. But with Agnew, gonna hate

his guts.

" .

.

if

I

If

I

don't

we

get



"

Thinking the Unthinkable

Haldeman: "Well,

hatred of Agnew

The

matter what.

the dislike of you is

is

!53

we

by people

no

can't get over

partially winnable."

Nixon: "Winnable by me." "Right.

A lot of people who will not vote for [you], will not

Agnew

is

Haldeman: vote for you

Nixon:

"I

if

your vice president."

think so too.

.

make

think by the time they

Haldeman:

.

The

.

the

may

show that record [against Agnew] poll



all

Nixon: "But you

out on the



work

they didn't

see,

was too God-damn clever

And

for 'em.

he's

the time,

I

don't.

And

it.

also, if you're in a

I

about

A

lot

of presidents

.

.

age where people are going

at at the

They're gonna think about

and they know what

it.

his heart attack .

.

.

No

is,

what

been through, and they're gonna say

a man's

the rest, well, they

always that

all

know what

a bitchy job this it,

the cholesterol

is

when he

matter what your is,

and they know

the actuarials

and

and the

and

rest,

possibility."

Haldeman: "The to

it.

"

health record

on

of a

it."

sixty-four.

there's

of a

hell

Nixon: "Quite vulnerable. Eisenhower had

was

much

second-term situation, people do

at sixty-one, sixty-two, sixty-three.

Haldeman: "That's why you'd be to think

that

up. Let's face

don't

think of the possible death of the president.

have died,

was not

me was made

I

mean a lot of it, I agree but God-damn, the other 20 percent of

asked for some of

with him 80 percent of the time,

?

Eisenhower [against

to

I

.

.

I

"

with me, because basically

it

also.

lightning rod. Frankly, most of the stuff on

With Agnew,

do

"Just like Stevenson tried to

Nixon], they'd go

up, either. But

not

issue

with Connally, of course,

is

he'd be able to hold

most of the people who'd be concerned about dumping Agnew.

.

.

.

A hell of a lot of 'em." Nixon: "He'd hold

all

of the South except a few Republicans in the

South. But Connally's gaining a Incidentally, did

lot.

Every time Connally goes out

you get him on Meet the

Press or not?"

As Nixon rambles on about showcasing Connally, the phone rings. It is Dean. Nixon takes the call: "Hello. Yes, John. I get it, John. Thank you, thank you."

He hangs up and

tells

Haldeman:

takes a majority of both houses of Congress.

got to [go], see

what

I

mean? That's

the only

"I

A

was

exactly right.

It

only

simple majority. Agnew's

way

to

handle the thing.

It'll

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

i54

be a hell of a bombshell. But as

done

if

On

we're [Congress

the tape,

I

ond term. Haldeman suggests is

moving

.

down.

a little

.

.

could say he was

into another field that he

you

to serve

in

it

would have

to be

wants

your reelection

done

and [rather than] go through the it.

about going to the

Thus

Agnew

that

to get

as a pri-

.

thought to

game."

Nixon

calculating the time

."

Nixon muses: "The way sit

ball

to

now, and because he wants

vate citizen.

to

can only be

inaugural day of the sec-

in the late fall or as late as

resigning "because he

it

out."

isj

Nixon and Haldeman can be heard

frame for the move

into

look at the situation, Bob,

What makes me

ball

game. He's a

is, I

think he might do

little

would ask Bryce

Agnew give

battle, [have] it is,

his attitude

queasy about being booed

at the

19

the president of the United States and his chief lieuman first in destiny's

did

tenant, apparently seriously, plot about getting the line to

become leader of the

a job in television.

free

world

to step aside voluntarily,

Haldeman wrote afterward

tonight and on the phone to

me even

after

follow-up kind of activity."

in the usual

tive tors,

game, where particularly

crowd

in

Nixon "was up

aide John

Nixon might ask

late

got home, three or four times,

I

put on display

to be

Washington

at a

politicians risk a nega-

reaction. In 1971, the last season of the old

Agnew

for

20

(Nixon was right about Agnew's reluctance baseball

that

maybe

Damgard, knowing Agnew's

Washington Sena-

attitude

and fearing

him in throwing the Robert F. Kennedy Stadium,

the vice president to substitute for

traditional first ball at the

opening game

at

invented an insurance policy for his boss.

He

asked Agnew's scheduler,

Ernie Minor, a native of Cincinnati, to arrange for the vice president to be invited to

throw out the

ball at

opening day of the Cincinnati Reds of the

National League, who, like the Senators, peace,

day

and

last in

the

American League,"

early. Cincinnati,

Damgard

ington. B)

Agnew

list

with three choices: "A)

Throw

checked the

out the third.)

21

as "first in war, first in

traditionally started the season a

pointed out to Agnew, was a hotbed of

Republicanism and hence was probably ted a check

known

a safer venue.

Throw

first ball in

out the

Damgard

submit-

first ball in

Cincinnati. C)

No

Wash-

balls at all."

"

Thinking the Unthinkable

That same new,

in California,

tapes,

Nixon

Nixon made

night,

major speech on Vietnam, and Ag-

a

to laud his delivery.

On

an expansive mood, bantering with

in

is

phoned him

!55

the

White House

Agnew and

encour-

aging him, giving no sign that earlier in the day he had been plotting with

Haldeman about how

depose

to

his vice president

who was gushing

all

over him.

Nixon:

"How are ya?

Agnew: "Yeah,

In California, eh? That's great."

California.

[Newspapers] people

had

I

this afternoon."

Nixon: "Oh, they're great people. like that,

we'd be

Agnew:

My God, if we only had more papers

in clover."

"That's true. Well, Mr. President,

keys again tonight.

was the most part

good interview with the Copley

a

.

.

.

I

think you pulled

I'm trying to be completely objective.

effective of all the

Vietnam speeches by

where you put the paper down and

just

I

all

the

thought

it

particularly the

far,

went off the cuff on

that very

personalized impression."

Nixon: "Well actually [when] that

was

I

speaking from the heart, because

really

Kevin, the four-year-old, saluted me,

little

my God, what do

you do? You almost come apart."

Agnew: "Well,

it

came through extremely

well,

and not

just that part.

thought the whole speech was extremely well-organized and just did a great

amount of good

I

effective. It

as far as defusing all of this incipient

demonstration and what-not."

Nixon:

"Basically, the

rotic state,

thing, that's

problem

but we've got to fight all.

we measure up? ture will look

So history

it,

will look

why I said back and say we had That's

that the country

is

is

neu-

in sort of a

because we've got to do the right

back and

say,

did

at the last, that

the courage to

we have, but by God, you and I are going we can." Agnew: "That came through strong and clear

not sure

we crumble

or did

generations in the fu-

do the to be

right thing. I'm

damn

sure

we do

everything

find,

even the analysis on

Nixon [breaking

in,

bet you did. Don't

do

CBS was

fairly



tonight.

I

laughing]: "I hope you didn't look at it!

Don't look

at those

think you'll

it.

God-damned

You

did,

I

television

buggers."

Agnew: President."

"I

want

to see

whether they're getting any

religion,

Mr.

i

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

56

Nixon: "Nah, they won't get any ously.]

But anyway

I

[Agnew laughs

religion.

uproari-

appreciate the fact you kicked those bastards in

the gut."

Agnew

goes on to

tell

Nixon

that the

CBS

analysis

parture" for them "that ever seen."

first I've

The

came across as a very Nixon shoots back: "God,

was

fair

and "a de-

positive analysis

and the

don't get your hopes up.

next one will be negative."

Agnew Nixon through

"I'm as cynical as you are about that, maybe more so."

[soberly]:

[the batttered veteran]:

"No, no, no, no, not more

so. I've

been

more than you have."

it

The president, warming up now and switching his Vietnam targets, says: "The real problem, Ted, is the fact these God-damned senators and congressmen, they're around. is,

if

Damn

it,

all

crawling and straining and whining

up and be men. The

they ought to stand

they want us to get out after a certain date,

say so?

Then, by God,

them be responsible

for

all right,

why

real question

the hell won't they

we'll get out by a certain date

Vietnam going communist. All

and

let

right, but they

won't do that."

Agnew:

"Well, they see they have a different perspective than you have,

Mr. President. They're not looking job.

They're looking

Nixon:

"I

know. Well, we're gonna do the

what

him. After section.

up

my

call

Remember,

for the

gonna

stick to

said about the

I

men

Nixon: "But

it.

that's

right thing,

Tell old

I

said by

Bob

why

God

I



and we're doing

Bob Hope

with him on the telephone, that

that I

I

hope he

did that for

wrote that whole

somebody's got to stand up and speak

the whole speech

tell

and

Vietnam servicemen, because

that serve in Vietnam.

Agnew: "Well,

term of service and doing a

at a lifetime in the Senate,

the right thing, we're

noticed

at a short

Wasn't that good?"

was outstanding."

that that section

was

a result

of my conversation

with him. Will you do that?"

His loyal vice president said he would so advise the president's secret 22 speech writer.

A few days strated

later, Nixon had

how and why

the big

a long talk

with Connally that demon-

and confident Texan was making the

presi-

Agnew toward him

as his

dent look past the obedient, fawning Spiro

Thinking the Unthinkable

adviser of choice

—and would-be

l

57

vice president. In the course of a discus-

sion of foreign policy, supposedly Nixon's strong suit, Connally un-

abashedly takes

it

upon himself to

Nixon he needs

tell

to stop being so soft

and get tougher.

Connally: "Mr. President. stance

would occur where

where you this

.

I

would hope

likely to be a

it's

that,

somewhere, some

in-

major [dispute] or something,

withholding [your approval], you're denying

just say [you're]

or you're denying that because you're getting tired of getting kicked

around,

kicked around.

this nation getting

country's fed to

.

make,

up and

so

am

I'd

I.'

words.

.

.

.'The

use those words. If I have one suggestion

and

that you're, in your defense,

it's

I'd use those

contribute to

I

some of this,

you're always too controlled; that you're always too studious, too precise,

always right .... this

comes natural

now

You

say, 'I'm sick

and

to you.

you

a very cold

and aloof man.

up with

always good. But carry

If you

it

too

far, it

have to be one or the other,

it's

I've

you before, that you display some emotion, something

that reflects a real interest

on your

uine reaction; a spur-of-theIn other words, Connally to stop

or 'I'm fed

man. But every now and then, and

better to be that than an irrational basically said this to

it,'

similar expression, whatever

Because you're not a stranger now. People view you

as a very studious, very cautious,

leaves

tired of

some

nation being kicked around' or

being such a

part;

moment was

some

reaction,

reaction that

whatever

telling the president

and Nixon was taking

stiff,

it

is

a very

might

gen-

be."

of the United States

it all

without the

in

disagreement or offense.

slightest

Connally

tells

him about

a

major conference

in

Texas of "top hunters

and fishermen from around the world" where he could vation of the ecology and the environment.

talk about conser-

"You should

visit

the

forum

you want and the subject you want," he lectures the president, "but some-

body ought

to be

watching

for things like this. ... It gets

you

a little out of

the ordinary."

Connally goes on to of

stiffs too,

him and

who ought

Nixon

to be out

that his cabinet

on the

is

composed of a bunch

firing line regularly

defending

his policies.

Nixon: "You're lot

tell

right, but

you know, the cabinet does make

a hell of a

of speeches."

Connally: "But they don't take on anybody. take on

some of these people."

We got to be

prepared to

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

5« Nixon

(agreeing): "Gotta fight!"

more of this

After some estingly

from Connally, Nixon

critical talk

enough, you know, Agnew's not that kind of a guy.

Agnew

says, "Inter-

the hor-

Is this

rible

guy you're reading about?" In

bull

by the horns" to answer criticism of Nixon's handling of the war by J.

go through the

who

try doesn't

want us

he

says,

William Fulbright. "As

Democratic Senator line,

fact,

a matter of fact

the hell else you got there? ...

back and take that

to sit

recently "took the

stuff, [but]

I

I

when you

think the coun-

can't be the

one to

kick the hell out of these people," Nixon says. "Or do you think so?"

Connally

"No, you cannot." Nixon

says,

counsel and

finally asks

him

if

listens to

he'd like to see

some more of

some more

this

presidential

"outrage." Connally seizes the opportunity to butter up the president

good and proper. "You have it,"

he

.

.

enough

Finally,

then

I'd just

Nixon

is,

in private conversation.

it

take the bridle off a

gets

down

whether they

"Let

to business:

their language, like

him

I

.

.

But

I'm say-

little, that's all

me

ask you about Agnew."

and the great value of the

vice

or whether they don't, whether they

always agree with him or whether they don't, lieves.

.

to use

to reach the average fella."

Connally: "He speaks president

know how

marvelous voice and you

Nixon, "and you do use

now and

every ing.

tells

a

I

think he says what he be-

think he's candid enough to say what he believes, and they think

that of very

few men

in political

life.

A

lot

of politicians are at a very

low ebb."

comments on Agnew, however, begin

Connally's signal:

"Now,

think the vice president has

I

most reached the

point,

and

I

sound

to

made some

mistakes. He's al-

cause he says what he thinks. If he goes beyond that thin

effect,

line.

can't survive, because he will be completely discredited then. it

yet.

not to use too

.

"I

.

.

if he's

not be-

then he

He

hasn't

And there's one other point, that he has to be careful much alliteration, because then people begin to think, .

.

'Well, he's just trying to be clever."

Nixon:

warning

said almost reached the point, where

not careful he's going to convince people he's doing this for

reached

a

don't think you can be too cute."

Connally: "No, you

can't."

Nixon: "You can be funny now and then."

Connally: "Funny, humor, Nixon: "Very well."

great.

He

does that well."

"

Thinking the Unthinkable

Connally: "Extremely

Humphrey. mean,

it

string of

.

.

he's attacking a

he has to be careful of the language he uses.

words of

whale of a

he's

alliteration.

a

can be

It

a delicate thing to handle.

It's

been a tremendous drawing card now.

And

.

he's

.

And

.

been a

soldier."

Nixon: "He's been the one

Connally: "That's

to take

'em on when others have not."

been the one what nobody

correct. He's

else

do."

Nixon: "God-damn

right."

Connally: "And he came to take 'em on."

time

at a

when you

really

needed somebody

23

At the same time, however, Connally was continuing in

Muskie or

can be tough, but he can't just have a string of adjectives, a

God knows,

would

But when

well.

159

ways

mind

that provided in Nixon's receptive

vice president about

whom

speak and act

to

a sharp contrast

with the

he was having increasing doubts. In another

taped conversation with Nixon about a severe drought in Texas, Connally

demonstrates the kind of forcefulness

—and manliness—

dent so admired. Discussing the plight of Texas

warns Nixon concerning

his relief officials:

the grain program, because

doesn't help.

What

I'm no authority.

.

New

effective [cost].

that does

is

"Don't

let

is

.

'em

just

some grain

tell

Nixon

that hay can be

I

suppose,

imported from Col-

Truman

"the most

program they ever had was, the government picked up the

But

if

there weren't sufficient in,

quick to agree



if

only because of his fixation on win-

"Oh

ning Texas's electoral votes in his approaching reelection.

"whatever

As Connally

it is, it's

Texas,

God-damn

it,

affected, Nixon's

hell,"

he

they've got to be helped!"

discusses the shortage of rainfall

and farmland have been eral

put you on

hay."

Mexico, and Arizona, and under Harry

Nixon breaks says,

Connally

run up the price of grain and

they really need, in addition to

Connally proceeds to orado,

all

that the presi-

cattle farmers,

phone

and how rings.

own

cattle

retired

Gen-

his

It's

George A. Lincoln, head of the Office of Emergency Preparedness,

the disaster relief agency.

Nixon

tells

him: "I'm sitting here talking to

John Connally about the Texas situation. He's could talk to you a

bit,

and you

could sort of give you his view. the hay."

fill

.

.

him

in

just back.

I

wonder

if

he

with what you're doing and he

particularly with regard to the rain

and

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

i6o

Connally takes the phone, and after brief pleasantries launches a tour de force:

know a thing, I don't pose as an expert, I merely want to much information. Number one, it is damn bad. That much

don't

"I

give you this I

know, over

is.

do

Secondly, don't just is

wide range of space.

a very, very

let it

go with

run up the price of grain.

Connally

.

.

is

the

cow

Connally the rancher he's

program, because

just a grain

Truman approach

save their

is

doing himself

it

in

for

credit for

I

it.

too niggardly.

him

tells

them

"there's

own

to save his

for free.

cattle.

no hay

Then,

damn

this

hay."

what the

is

.

.

.

What

they're

in

Texas" and what's

in authoritative presiit all

in,

Connally the

long where everybody else gets the

have a few observations

Remember

some

you

herds."

"Don't wait too

just

all

it

which "the farmers bought the

dential tones with the president sitting by taking politician adds:

as they say

All right, but [throw in]

.

hay but the government transported

do

bad

Lincoln that "the most effective thing, and

tells

farmers say,"

trying to

just as

It's

make. Secondly, don't be

to

what

that the average person,

and

down

around, they don't

They

heard

at the

corner cafes

have a

damn

thing to do, they can't work.

there.

.

.

all sit

so they

[this] is

all sit

down and

I

talk.

And they just say, 'By God, if there's a famine over in India, they Goddamn sure get the food over there, and they don't mind givin' it away. They have

all

the

wheat

'em food or anything

go through

all

the

in Russia, the

want. But

else they

God-damn

ever be helped.' This

is

communists, but they don't give

when

it

comes

to us,

rigaramole, this and that, and

an unfair advantage, but nevertheless

we got to we can't

that's their

attitude."

Nixon sayin'

is,

is

if

on and do

heard clearing his throat. Connally concludes: "So

you gonna do somethin,' It

it.

costs a little bit

only to the extent that you do

think they I

don't

made you do

want

When

to

it.

.

.

.

hell,

don't be niggardly about

more money, it

all

[but] you're

gonna get

I'm

it,

go

credit

voluntarily. Don't wait so long that they

I'd just

run your business.

follow that up as quickly as

I

could.

." .

.

Connally hands over the phone, Nixon

offers:

"You

can't screw

around. You're absolutely right. You've got to also show that they care

about

it

right

now! Right now! Right now!"

Connally, having just shown Nixon charge,

tells

him: "That's right.

need leadership, you need

The

how

a president

should take

main thing you need again

to display leadership.

And

to just let

it

is,

you

drag,

let

161

Thinking the Unthinkable

it

drag, and take one halting step and another halting step,

decent step."

He

Nixon

tells

that Lincoln

had

requires a

it

said that in an earlier

drought there had been a hay program and "a big hassle" over the cost

and larger ranches getting "Oh, Christ," Nixon thing.

Do

the hay.

"We

replies.

don't care about that. Just do some-

again. Better to get in a hassle doing something than to get in

it

doing nothing."

a hassle for

Connally: "That's

The

all

right."

24

home with

Texan's display of forcefulness apparently struck

Nixon, because

in a separate

White House tape the president

is

heard

cit-

ing Connally's defense of the Texas farmers, and the failure of his

own

He

tells

secretary of agriculture, Clifford Hardin, to respond similarly.

Haldeman he should have heard Connally

damn

thing in Texas.

He

says,

out there charging, saying get that hay?'

I

You know,

around about [what]

it

'God-damn,' he

says,

worry about that hay,

and

is

about that God-

'Hardin should be

that farmer going to

talking about that hay. He's not farting

it's

ought

talk in terms of statistics

"raise hell

to cost the country. See all

the

rest.

what

I

mean?

We

Everything we get out there,

God-damn word of warmth." Then, suddenly, Nixon segues to his vice president: "Agnew has no warmth. He's a cold fish. But his words sometimes have warmth. That's why Agnew is a personality." From all this, Connally seemed to be sympathetic to Agnew and to be there isn't a

25

conveying the idea that Nixon ought to keep him on the ticket as long as

him so steadfastly and didn't go And Nixon in his forceful agreement

the vice president continued to defend

overboard with

his

steamy rhetoric.

appeared to be going along.

The

president called

Haldeman

in

and

had discussed Agnew, "and he thinks agree. ...

wrote

I

don't

know what

in his diary that

Nixon

it."

27

him

the hell we're

"told

me

nally regarding the vice presidency,

ready for

told

Agnew

to

and

have

that he

and Connally

can survive.

gonna do."

26

a private talk

start getting

him

I

do not

Haldeman with Con-

built

up and



Chapter 11

BULL IN A CHINA SHOP

Around

this time,

Agnew committed

a pair of political

faux pas of unusual dimension, even for him, that could only heighten

Nixon's desire to get rid of him. For two years, the president and his national security adviser,

move

that

Henry

would mark Nixon

an opening

to

Kissinger,

had been

diligently pursuing a

as an innovative force in foreign policy

China. In the spring of 1971, as a statutory

National Security Council,

Agnew was

member

of the

present during a discussion of

Nixon's attempts to thaw out relations with the Far East giant,

still

re-

ferred to, especially in Republican circles, as

Communist China. As

staunch defender of Taiwan and opposed to

replacement by mainland

its

China on the United Nations Security Council, According

UN

to

Ambassador George H. W. Bush had

States did not have the votes in the

Timmons

Agnew

William Timmons, Nixon's top

Agnew

a

spoke out.

liaison

with Congress,

just reported that the

United

UN to save Taiwan's seat. "Mr. Presi-

The Security Council has every right to do whatever they want, and we have every right to kick their asses out." The next day, according to Timmons, Haldeman informed Agnew: "Your presence won't be required at NSC dent,"

recalled

meetings henceforth."

For Nixon,

a

very simple.

confirmed anti-communist, to break the long diplomatic

opportunity presented

team competing

it's

1

freeze between Beijing and

An

saying, "I think

in the

Washington would be

itself in April,

a

huge coup

when an American

world championship

in

for him.

table tennis

Japan was invited

to play

i6 3

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

164

exhibition matches in China,

The

invitation

where the sport was

fanatically pursued.

was accepted and the Nixon administration

on the

built

breakthrough by announcing the end of its trade embargo against China, to coincide

to the

with the

regime

new "ping-pong

as "the People's

"Communist China" no match

who

order not to humiliate their

It

so

Republic of China" rather than the old

or "mainland China."

for the Chinese,

petition filled

The American

players

were

sympathetically used second-stringers in

and

visitors,

American newspapers.

happened

diplomacy." Nixon started referring

stories

of the

new

friendly

com-

2

that at precisely this time,

Agnew went

to

another Re-

publican governors' conference at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, in his role as administration liaison with his old colleagues,

by his earlier meeting with them

at

Sun

somewhat tarnished

Valley. There, he took

it

upon

himself in a post-midnight meeting with a select group of reporters to his differences

ous trips to Asia,

mitment

to

new developments toward China. On two

with the

Agnew had

air

previ-

stopped in Taiwan to reaffirm the U.S. com-

Chiang Kai-shek, which he personally supported. And

in

White House discussions about China, he had repeatedly cautioned about trusting the regime in to

what was then known

as

Peking and reaching out

it.

In a most

uncommon

his press secretary, Vic

some of the

gesture for

Agnew, he unexpectedly suggested

to

Gold, that he'd like to have a drink or two with

reporters covering the conference.

Gold ran out

into the hotel

lobby and rounded up nine of them. Because of the lateness of the hour,

he phoned some of them in their rooms, rousing them for what Gold explicitly said

would be an off-the-record

chat.

Agnew

in his suite cordially

down with him and two other aides, Roy Goodearle and Peter Malatesta. Agnew at first seemed not to have anything particular in mind to talk about, though he did make his usual points about the need for the press to be more self-critical. He compli-

greeted them, and they sat

mented some of the reporters he knew, while

criticizing their editors

and

management. Eventually the subject turned to the ping-pong diplomacy develop-

Agnew whether he played the game and whether he was any good at it. He said he was a pretty fair player, probably good enough to beat the Chinese leaders, Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai. Getting more serious, Agnew said he was disturbed by how the ment, with one reporter asking

Bull

American

China Shop

in a

press had handled the story, particularly one account by the

Associated Press reporter in Tokyo.

The AP man

credited Peking with a

diplomatic coup by using second-level players in "an exquisite display of

Chinese

new

and politeness

tact

said he feared the

their

and repressive

sion of the hard

countrymen

Agnew

beating in the China

visit,

hope about

false

communist regime.

United States had taken a propaganda

said, the

meeting

curity Council

them. Ag-

a severely distorted impres-

China, and create

life in

the chances of peaceful co-existence with the

In his view,

for

glowing accounts of the young Americans about

would give

their reception

who were no match

to guests"

and he

told the reporters that, at a National Se-

just prior to

it,

he had argued in vain against the

He

administration's course of seeking to ease relations with Peking.

While he endorsed

that regime.

said

on Taiwan and among Americans toward

he feared an adverse reaction

lifting the recent travel

and trade

restric-

he expressed worry that the United States might appear too eager to

tions,

reach an accommodation with China.

3

After nearly three hours of talk, the reporters

under the

left, still

off-

who were not present and to talk to Agnew about the

the-record ground rules. Reporters like myself,

were not bound by

same

fused to

with

The

subject.

it

lift

asked for an opportunity

ground

the

rules.

what was going

a result of his

calculated.

.

.

.

this;' fine,

surprised about

was

It

was

his

had

it

he was being undermined.

way he could

was not going

to

do

(When Nixon went "It

was

that there

deliberate. if

re-

would be

Agnew "knew hell to

pay



as

let

think he really

I

him

on something,

in

it

Peking] as

you.'"

would not

he was

much

as

anybody,

4

"Agnew

believed

very strong supporter of Taiwan and

say things he believed, told.

and show he was one who

And

in the following

a complete surprise to

it

[held the press meeting].

political aides, agreed.

He was a

China

deeply

to say was, 'Mr. Vice President, we're go-

[the overture to

just as

to

felt

he had had better relations with the

way of saying, 'Screw

David Keene, one of Agnew's

a



said later that

he never would have done

He was

was

Gold

it."

do think

All they

and

this

I

and the president had

have happened. ing to do

Agnew, but he declined and

meeting with the reporters. "He understood the ramifica-

That was

president,

to

"Absolutely not," he told Gold. "They'll go

happen"

to

about the [China] policy.

it

went

but I'm not going to release

exactly

tions.

it

press secretary

Agnew.

It

he was very proud of

it."

February, Keene recalled,

was humiliating.

It

pissed

him

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS off mightily."

Upon

Force Base

suburban Maryland

in

Nixon's return,

Agnew went him.

to greet

out to

When

Andrews Air

he got back, he

phoned Keene and asked him: "Do you know what I thought as they rolled up the stairs to the plane? I wondered if he'd be carrying an um5

brella."

(Like-minded Keene,

a rock-ribbed

anti-communist, needed no

explanation of the reference to Neville Chamberlain's acquiesence to the

surrender of Czechoslovakia to Hitler at Munich in 1938.)

Tom

In any event, before long another reporter,

Louis Post-Dispatch, and

I,

working then

for the

Ottenad of the

St.

Los Angeles Times,

learned of the midnight press meeting and gleefully wrote the story from

provided by some of our professionally frustrated colleagues.

details

Our

accounts were sort of "absentee" scoops, resulting from Agnew's adher-

ence to the off-the-record mandate imposed on the reporters present.

were soon picked up by the wire

stories

and the Nixon administration hard. For the sue, the vice president

what he had

softened; he said he

supported

told the

time on a truly major

is-

Agnew

Republican governors

told the

had reservations about the administration policy but

it.

monumental

press deal that the

flap arising

furious.

from

Haldeman recounted

in his

a rather weird, off-the-record

VP had Sunday night in Williamsburg. Apparently, af-

midnight he called nine press people

ter

Washington

Williamsburg Nine the night before, but

At the White House, Nixon was diary "a

first

hit

was second-guessing the president. To make mat-

worse, the next day at lunch

ters

essentially

and they

services,

The

to his suite

and spent three hours

in an off-the-record backgrounder with them, during which he expressed his

disagreement with the idea of letting

and

down

the barriers with

China

extreme dissatisfaction with the press reporting of the Chinese

his

ping-pong

tour. This,

of course, has created exactly the kind of flap that

should have been expected." 6

The Nixon White House

tapes recorded the president's reaction in a

conversation with his national security adviser,

Henry

Kissinger. "I sup-

pose you saw what our Peck's Bad Boy did yesterday," Nixon says.

guess

is

popped

And and

it I

that this off, as

was

a ten-minute, probably,

he does, on

this subject,

can only be harmful,

know

it

little

"My

dialogue where he

not knowing his ass from his face.

can only be harmful because, Henry, you

that he's exactly right in

what he

says,

but

God-damn

it,

why

Bull

does he have to sound

off]

|

get

knocked down?

it

I

in a

China Shop

on the thing?

Now the question

Agnew's got

really think

to

knock

how do we

is,

down."

it

I can get him under control." Nixon orders make the point to him that he has created, he enormous harm and he's got to correct it." Kissinger

Kissinger offers: "Well,

him

to

do

and

so,

has created, by

this,

"Why

then asks:

to

"even

couldn't Ziegler say the vice president

was speaking

for

himself?"

Nixon

makes me look

—you

The

for himself.

He

"The

rejects that idea.

with

difficulty

this,

Henry,

you cannot say the vice president

see,

is

that

is

it

speaking

vice president cannot speak for himself in foreign policy.

He

can speak for [himself] in the press, but not in foreign policy.

has

NSC, Henry, and the mounderstood. You see, that would be

got to speak for the administration. He's in the

ment he goes too.

have

to

It's

do

'Now

say,

going

to destroy

look,

I

was

It

assails his vice

NSC

dumb damn

a

president

meeting.

ample," he

and

I



it

can also hurt

us.

I

"He

the

I

it

dumb,

that's just

say that,

his

job

is

to

is

desk as he

NSC,

made.

I

for ex-

dumb. God-damn, w

you know,

hell,

I

Romney

hell,

wage

[over]

they're not supposed to say

mean, what the

it,

the vice president, his

"my frank opinion

is

that

we

are better off hav-

ing Ziegler say that there are always free discussions in the vice president

was expressing

his personal view, that

NSC

he thought

and the

it

was an

off-the-record meeting at which he expressed his personal view. let

not

support the president."

Kissinger repeats that

then

hat

argued against

sounds like [cabinet members George]

God-damn them,

controls.

once the decision

What do

other things, speaking out of school

shouldn't have said that about the

up there and

mean,

don't know.

thing for

among

for,

I

and [John] Volpe and those other people saying they argued and price

destroys

it

think what you

him to do." White House tape pounding

says. "That's just

he's trying, to sit this,

him, but

what's going to happen,

was completely misunderstood.'

Nixon can be heard on an

not

you've got to get off that wicket. He's got to eat crow, and

is

you think?

at

it is

way out of it, but you know

the easy

him

off on a tangent,

And

the vice president say of course he supported the policy. If he says

he was misunderstood,

Nixon

there'll

takes the occasion to

ing with the press.

He

says

be nine guys swearing that he said

make some

Agnew

it."

choice observations about deal-

erred in "editing an individual story"

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

i68

and then he unloads:

think the stories are lousy,

"I

of the reporters are a bunch of bastards. That's

— with—

reporters. Believe:

porter in twenty years trust

me, because



why

never.

think

I

— have —

have never had a drink with

I

Not

one.

One

all

never had them

I've

mistake number one. Never

in for a drink. That's his

drink

of them.

all

a

a re-

of the reasons they don't

never relax with them. That's true." Kissinger, laugh-

I

ing, injects: "That's right."

Nixon goes

on: "All the bastards

drink with him].

I'll



they never did [trust him, or have a

you what happened

bet

He

there.

and

[aide Peter]

Malatesta were sitting there having a couple of drinks, trying to talk

God-damned

about the in

here and

try to get

it

let's

up

Kissinger

tells

here,

and get the

Kissinger that let's

.

.

.

up.

Get 'em and

off the record

and

tell

him

"

I

sent

Haig over on Friday

Nixon breaks

to brief

"Did he? Really?"

in:

doesn't see "the big picture."

just be sure that

he supports the president's

policies,

support his policies."

I

them

them

said] 'Call

with them

press."

— he had

Agnew

Kissinger: "Actually, for

this, let's level

[press secretary] Vic [Gold] out of bed

policy, so

Nixon: "Well, not that

[when Agnew

Nixon: "Actually,

tells

him on China

about

Get

settled.

to get his ass

He

talk

press,

to

remember

it

won't hurt us with the Chinese.

that there are significant elements

.

.

.

It's

on the

useful

right [in

the United States]."

Nixon: "That's

right,

I

agree, [but]

it

does hurt us in American public

opinion."

Kissinger: "It might even help you get the liberals.

Nixon,

in briefing Ziegler

on what

member, though, Henry's point impression

own

I

He

.

to tell the press, instructs

him: "Re-

well taken. Be sure they don't get the

support the vice president's views.

The

vice president has his

views [but] he has no views on that unless they're mine."

After Ziegler has

"Let

is

." .

me

just

left

the room,

say this, though.

I

Nixon

tells

Kissinger about

just don't think he's got

pops right off there now,

that's just so

thing, that he didn't realize, that he didn't

shouldn't get into something like

this.

Agnew:

good judgment.

God-damned



know, he didn't know,

What do you

think?

.

.

.

that's the

that he

Huh? Or you

think he did?"

Kissinger:

wrong."

"He

just feels very strongly that

what we're doing

is

Bull

in a

Nixon: "But because he doesn't Kissinger: "Not at .

.

see the big

169

He

game, Henry.

doesn't

game, does he?"

see the Russian

view.

China Shop

He

all.

looks at

it

entirely

from

his point of

of Chiang Kai-shek."

And we

him about it [because of his close allegiance to Taiwan]. You see, that's what he does. He can't run with the Russian game because he's for that policy and would ruin the Chinese game. God-damn it, he is I don't think we better put him on any more Nixon:

".

.

.

can't

tell



What do you

foreign trips.

Later, however,

way

When rupts: "I

relented in

what some

know,

these places.

.

.

.

I

know, but he

to

was

insiders surmised

a

vice president out of his hair for a time.

Kissinger offers that "he's behaved well on the

He went

thing.

Nixon

bumbling

to get his

think?"

China,

he's



Nixon

"

inter-

gets to be that he's an expert. That's the

been

to

Well, that's the danger.

Korea, you know,

A

little bit

been to

he's

all

of knowledge and you

expert. You go to Taiwan once, and 'I know about the China know Chiang Kai-shek, I know more than they even think they But Agnew doesn't see the point there. On the business of recogni-

become an thing.

I

know.' tion,

he wouldn't see that

sion to the

Agnew

UN

and

it's

You know, Henry, the thing about the me is, God-damn it, we handled this Chinese

trade.

thing that irritates

not only separating recognition and admis-

.

.

.

thing with extreme subtlety and ferring to the press] thing.

I

now

skill

and got good

these sons of bitches will

and

credit for

it,

jump on

the

[re-

Agnew

jump on him, rather than on me." "They'll jump on him, Mr. President. Everyone knows

think they'll

Kissinger:

know anything." Nixon: "It may destroy him,

that

he doesn't

though." 7

Haldeman, by way of clarification, wrote it's

clear that he

in his diary that

[Agnew] doesn't understand the big picture

Chinese operation, which

is,

Nixon

in this

of course, the Russian game. We're using the

Chinese thaw to get the Russians shook. Dobrynin will be back

week, and Henry will get a reading on

Nixon

new

later

how

it's

working."

wrote of the incident that "a bull

in the

his reservations

Chinese Communists that he

would

later this

8

form of Ted Ag-

inadvertently careened into this diplomatic China shop.

had expressed

"says

whole

.

.

.

Agnew

about our trade and visa overtures to the

at a recent

NSC meeting, but I

discuss his doubts with reporters.

I

had never imagined

told

Haldeman

to get

1

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

70

word to Agnew to P got again to the

He

damaging.

stay off this topic."

point that

wants

me

on China; the

is

"The

qualities here that are very

him with

it,

in this area of possible

10

the ping-pong fiasco, according to

Nixon "agreed with Ron's recommendation to say that there

pointedly added:

with Connally, and to move

to talk privately

vice presidential candidate."

word on

Haldeman

Agnew shows

very, very slowly; but to start getting

In his final

9

Haldeman, him

that the VP's authorized

no difference on the part of the

VP

with the

P's policy

VP completely agrees with the initiatives the P has taken."

11

Ziegler carried out the order, dutifully telling reporters that he had talked with

Agnew

say "there

absolutely

went on

is

to

by phone that morning and had been authorized to

no disagreement over

do what he could

to throttle the story of a

"You should not pursue the

The press secretary Nixon- Agnew split.

policy."

story that there

is

a difference of opinion

within the administration," he urged, "particularly a difference of opinion between the vice president and the president regarding the recent initiatives that the

United States government took toward the Republic of

China. There

no difference of opinion."

Through

is

all this,

12

however, not a public word came from Nixon,

often on previous occasions of criticism directed toward self or

through aides expressed

diligently

on

his support.

who

Agnew had him-

But with Kissinger working

a secret plan for a direct, dramatic presidential

opening

to

China, Agnew's outburst of policy independence particularly dismayed

Nixon, and fueled an unhappiness toward

his vice president that

had

al-

ready approached a breaking point. Kissinger wrote later of Nixon's reaction:

"The

never easy; life's

relationship between the president it is,

after

all,

and any

vice president

disconcerting to have at one's side a

is

man whose

ambition will be achieved by one's death. Nixon's sense of being sur-

rounded by potentional antagonists needed no such encouragement. wrote off this gaffe

as

He

another example of Agnew's unsuitability to succeed





him a view he held about most potential candidates and ordered Haldeman to ask Agnew to desist from further comments about China." Agnew's ventures away from his customary domestic battleground to 1

'

foreign affairs particularly irritated this foreign-policy-oriented president. For example, during negotiations with Strategic

Arms

Limitation Agreement,

known

Moscow as

SALT

over the I,

Agnew

first

did

not hesitate at National Security Council meetings to inject views that

Bull

China Shop

in a

171

contradicted administration policy. But after a while, he wrote usually kept

my mouth

shut because

had participated perhaps too

you

an opposite view

to take

Bob Haldeman once

later, "I

me,

told

after

'The president does not

enthusiastically,

I

like

meeting, or say anything that can

at a cabinet

be construed to be mildly not in accord with his thinking.'"

Agnew sion, after

sense to

continued: "In brief,

I

was

keep quiet. But

told to

waiting in vain for someone to object,

me

technology to the point that

with a crippling inferiority."

it is

.

.

.

When

me

Agnew

went on

said he

a poker-player glance.

NSC

.

.

.

me had

and cabinet meetings.

I

had

to

do

in front

it

sites,

make

I

its

we

roots in

I

now

my

The

believe

outspoken president

was given no chance

of the family.

need

but "the president

felt that a vice

I

a

are left

to express the

Looking back,

should contribute, not just observe. Since tribute in private,

doesn't

close to parity with ours,

that Mr. Nixon's disaffection with

criticism at

'It

they have improved their

for a guarantee of on-site inspections of missile

gave

said:

an agreement which leaves the Russians with

to negotiate

great superiority in throw-weight.

just

I

at this ses-

to con-

president did

not have the inner confidence to take even implied criticism of his pre-

determined decisions. "Gradually,

when

me

I

I

." .

.

learned

it

was

better to

my objections to myself When Bob Haldeman told

keep

disagreed with Mr. Nixon's policies.

the president

would appreciate

my

not speaking up,

he was conveying a message from the top. But

much more

if

about

to say, let's talk

meetings because there are leaks, and look divided.' But he never did that."

I

don't

it

Agnew was

that

would have appreciated privately.

want

said,

'Look,

Don't say

it

if

at

it

the administration to

14

position about which there was no need

tween Nixon and

presumed

me over and

the president himself had called

you have something

One

I

I

for lengthy discussion be-

their attitudes about the press; they both

thoroughly despised and distrusted

it.

Each

year,

Nixon

reluctantly at-

tended the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, a larger version of the Gridiron dinner, at which his piano duet with his vice president the year before had scored such a hit with the assembled reporters and editors.

At the 1971 dinner, however, there was no encore, and Nixon

turned to the White House seething at

all

re-

the anti-administration jokes

I

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

72

and carping, and wondering whether Agnew's open contempt

for the

press wasn't the right approach.

memo

In a long

Haldeman

to

for stories

on "Carswell, wire-tapping,

award

citations

Army

were read." While he professed

some of

thin-skinned," he dismissed the notion of result of

and

my going there and

insults that

I

surveillance, etc.

sitting

thereby proved

I

I

drunken audience laughed

there for twenty minutes while the as the

Nixon complained that way out left-wingers" honored

the next day,

"the reporters receiving the awards were

had

sit

in derision

to be "not a bit

his staffers that "as a

through three hours of pure boredom

was the 'good

and therefore may

sport'

have softened some of the press attitude toward the president. contrary," he wrote, "the type of people

nothing but contempt for those

to

who

get

who are down on

On

in the press corps

the

have

and who

their level

ac-

cept such treatment without striking back. That's one of the reasons they

have some respect for Agnew. Incidentally, going to such events

Nixon went on

an

to cite

iron last year,

and

that, the press

was more

Nixon

fore,

will

at the

I

aide's telling

and to

also

Agnew

if

right in not

is

"there will never be any-

put on

I

vicious than ever.' Also,

Grid-

did

this year

Agnew's

excellent per-

him no good whatever." There-

Haldeman, "under absolutely no circumstances

now

because

no excuses

he wants to go."

had pressed the

at the

'Within twenty-four hours after you did

for

I

my

in the future. ...

know

they

not going.

make

I

15

That was

to

simply do not care to go

I

a switch

vice president to sub for

want you

their plans well in

do not want any pressure whatever put on Agnew

go only

earlier

him

Agnew and

more dinners of this type

We need I

said,

Gridiron

inform Ziegler of this advance.

he

yet,

instructed

attend any

think

in the future."

thing to surpass the piano duet act that

formance

I

from

him

his

He

to go.

is

view when he

at that year's

Grid-

iron dinner.

As

for

Agnew, he

blithely

went on with

his tasks

of selling revenue-

sharing to the governors, assailing war protesters as "the same scruffy individuals"

who

caused the disruptions in Chicago in

questioning the patriotism of Senate doves against the war. ter

remarks brought

a

demand

for

When

Vietnam War, Agnew shot back: "He I

ever

made such

and

the lat-

an apology from Democratic Senator

J.William Fulbright of Arkansas, one of the most outspoken

prove

1968,

a statement.""

lies in his teeth.

I

critics

challenge

of the

him

to

Bull

China Shop

in a

!73

Such blunt exchanges disturbed Nixon. In mid-May, on

New

York

to

Washington, he called Haldeman

plained about Agnew's latest belligerent behavior. that night wrote:

thing,

to his cabin

Haldeman

from

and com-

in his diary

feeling that he shouldn't be doing this kind of

and he got back into the discussion of whether we could work out

resignation,

down

boils

"The P

a flight

and that

to the only possibility

Agnew

of leaving

possibility

who

led to the question of

could replace him, and

being Connally.

.

.

He

.

discussed the

and then making the change

in

a it

at the

time

of the election, going with Connally as a national unity ticket, leaving

him

Democrat.

as a

Agnew

seems

It

if we

resignation

to

could

me, we'd be better off to go the route of an

work

it

We'd

out.

get people used to Connally in the role ahead of time."

The problem with 1968 and hence cient heat

but

it

on

that scenario

Nixon could not simply

Agnew

would be hard

to talk so

17

Agnew had been elected in him. He could have put suffi-

that fire

to step aside, possibly offering

the job that had him next if

was

trauma and

get over the

him another

position,

ambitious a politician into surrendering of succession for the presidency.

in the line

And

he were reelected in 1972, the vice presidency would be an obvious and

strong stepping stone to his party's presidential nomination in 1976.

A couple of weeks later, Nixon broached the subject again man, who recorded

me

to

sit

down and have

have

it,

he's

to raise this in the

says he thinks

a frank, confidential talk with

the problem. See if he thinks really

"He

in his diary that night:

it

can be pulled

not broad-gauged enough.

terms of

he's (the

with Haldeit's

time for

Connally about

He feels Agnew doesn't And he (the P) doesn't want off.

VP) broken

his pick, but rather the

question of whether he has the grasp to handle the job, and the question

we can avoid his being the issue and that being very negative. Also that we just can't keep working him in the South, because whatever he says down there will play all over the country. Also he's not upbeat, he

of whether

doesn't give anyone a can't

do the

job,

lift.

and that

lousy staff, even with the

with Connally."

Soon

after,

... It all

adds up to the

will affect his ability to

P's

convinced that he

campaign. Also, he has

huge budget. So I'm supposed

a

to get into all this

18

Haldeman met Connally

at

Camp David

and,

Haldeman

wrote, Connally "basically agrees that there's a problem and that either

we have

to

change the VP's posture and

him something

to

do

in a very clear-cut

attitudes,

and the P must give

way. If he's going to keep him he

J

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

74

has to use him; otherwise, he's got to that he's

more

He

a

good

idea, if

him

than an

likely to be a liability

would probably be

let

go.

He

asset,

is

inclined to agree

and that replacement

could be done without creating a

it

wasn't aware of the possibility of appointing a replacement, but

seemed very much intrigued about any thoughts

as to

who

it

when

I

raised

the replacement should be.

it.

He

He

didn't express

felt

that

it

should

not be either an all-out conservative or an all-out liberal, but rather a in the P's basic

one

stir.

who

image,

will be

thought as to

who will

articulate the P's position well, principally

an asset in the campaign.

specific suggestions as to

who

He it

said he'll give

ought

to be, but

have any ideas offhand. Obviously, he was very interested concept of the change being made."

The fifth

possibility"

Amendment, and

men

tions

and

some

in the

whole

down

to his toes,

was not

of replacing a vice president under the Twenty-

that he "didn't have any ideas offhand" of

might be that replacement, challenged the seasoned

it

he didn't

19

notion that John Connally, a politician

"aware of the

in the conversation.

his perception

man

of his

credibility of both politically

Considering Connally's

own

who

abilities,

it

political

ambi-

probably didn't take him

very long to think of the best man.

But

for all this

new remained political

atmosphere of internal

vice president of the

army known

marching

in lockstep

conflict

United

and indecision, Ted Ag-

States,

with that impressive

as the Silent Majority, largely recruited

behind him. With a reelection campaign

half a year away, he wasn't finished yet; not by a long shot.

by him,

now

only

Chapter 12

ANYWHERE BUT PEKING

D

Agnew, or perhaps

espite Nixon's sinking confidence in

because of

Korea

it,

he had decided in June to send the vice president to South

for the inauguration of President

Chung Hee Park and

then on to

Singapore, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Africa, and western Europe, amid

wanted

speculation that the president

to get

him

off the front pages at

home.

At the time, Kissinger, without Agnew's knowledge, was continuing sensative negotiations with

China

that the

lead to an unprecedented visit of an Beijing].

Nixon therefore was

for a direct trip

American president

startled

to

asked

South Korean

very notion of the vice president suggesting that he precede

immediately informed Haldeman,

"The P had it

his

Agnew

China!

reinforced Nixon's concern about this bull loose in his

and

Peking [now

to

and appalled when

meeting with him and proposed that on

—he pop over

The

White House hoped would

a pretty

busy schedule.

turned out he wanted to

because he raised

it

make

in a

He

who wrote in his diary that night: He met with the VP at his request, a pitch for his

while he's on his trip to the inauguration in Korea. lievable,

him

China scheme.

way

that

made

it

going It

to

Red China

was almost unbe-

awkward

for the

P

to

him that he couldn't go, and then once told, he didn't give up. He kept coming back to how nice it would be if he could do that, that he, have to

tell

of course, should trips,

and

if

[also]

go

to

Taiwan because he always has on

he went to Taiwan,

it

wouldn't be a good idea

his other

to just

do

that

!75

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

176

and not go ting

it

The P

to Peking.

that way, but he did."

The White House which the

could hardly believe that he was really put-

1

taping system captures the remarkable exchange, in

vice president half-apologetically introduces his proposal.

Agnew:

"I just

wanted

worth anything or whether

it's

you because

to see

it's

not, but

had an

I

thought

I

idea.

I

don't

know

ask you about

I'd

if it.

You know, I'm going to go to this [clears throat] Korea trip, and there's some feeling, although I haven't discussed any itinerary with Henry, there's some feeling that we ought to stay away from Taiwan, because of the situation.

I

don't

know what

the decision

is

on

that,

but the thought

came to me that it might be, I don't know how the mainland Chinese looking back and recollecting your visit to the would think of this, but. .

Soviet Union, the

PRC

it

a

is

I'm afraid

have

have

I

will not

in

bad thing

mind,

the Chinese.

if

we

could do

it,

if

I

could go to

—and Taiwan."

long pause before Nixon replies, stammering: "Well, the

problem, the problem

we

a

[People's Republic of China]

There

be,

.

might not be

I

to

the time. Er, the,

is

go through

move

far

have very

much

on

a [check]

enough

to see in in

er,

I

don't think they will be,

I'm afraid

that.

we

will not

our own, uh, talks with them.

mind, the

possibility

I

of [meeting] with

We don't want to be in the position of going too fast, because

of the fact that

if

we

do, if

we pushed

and

that way,

also that we're not

scaring a hell of a lot of other people, get a lot of people disturbed, angry at us.

I'm inclined to think, I'm inclined to think, some other spots would

be useful,

I

think on the Taiwan



Agnew: "This may be a bad thing then." Nixon: "You can't go to Taiwan at this point. to say

anything right now. Something,

And you don't want something may come, I can tell .

.

.

you that something could come of the Chinese thing

in

terms of move-

ment within two or three months. It will not be within two or three weeks, though. You see, we're gonna to make a statement on trade on June the tenth. We're trying to work grain in the damn thing so we can get

some of our farmers

ing,

a little happy. All soft goods, all soft goods, noth-

nothing heavy, nothing

strategic.

But

in

terms of the travel thing,

they haven't accepted any of the Democratic candidates [who were seek-

ing entry]. They've turned

Agnew: "Well,

that's

them

all

down,

so far."

what, that occurred to me, Mr. President."

"

"

Anywhere but Peking

Nixon: "As

down

further

far as we're

concerned,

we make

after

77

we want

be able to get a

to

little

what happens on

the trade thing, and see

that."

Agnew

[talking over Nixon]: "Well,

it's

unfortunate.

be advantageous for two reasons. First of

The

stopped at Taiwan.

them, this

would think, because [Nixon

I

would be

places. ... this just

I

is

way

a

to

overcome

him

[cutting

the

Agnew

it,

if

Taiwan

tries to it

my

in

this idea,

off):

China thing

is

"On

thought

I

break

would

tough thing for

a very

is

it

other two trips I've

in: "I

know,

know"]

I

could just be a formal stop at both

had an appointment with Henry tomorrow

occurred to me,

Nixon culty

failure to stop at

all,

and I'm sorry

it

the other hand,

to discuss this.

— took must

I

But

say that the diffi-

not ready yet, for a stop."

[deferentially]: "I understand."

"We don't want to be too anxious. You know how those people me ask you, what other places did you have in mind that you

Nixon: Let

are.

would

like to

go

to?

"

Agnew: "While we're there, what I wanted Nixon: "Would you like to go to Japan?"

Agnew: "Frankly, what

I

"We

Agnew

says he will be

morning

come

don't need that.

Go to

we

told

I

read of Japan every day,

be just a tremendous demonstration, and

Nixon:

to do,

Henry

looks like

it

that

it



would

don't need that right now."

friendly countries only."

meeting with Kissinger for breakfast the next

to discuss the rest of his itinerary,

and Nixon suggests they both

to his office afterward.

Nixon:

".

cidentally,

.

.

We're gonna have

have

made any

decision on the

until later.

not, in-

UN thing [recognition for Tai-

wan] by that time, so you have no problem with

made

We will

a hell of a lot to handle.

That

that.

will not be

." .

.

Agnew makes one other pitch: "One thing I'd like to like to just make this a working trip and hit those countries I've On the way back, what I wanted to do, I wanted while my daugh-

Before leaving, do, I'd hit.

ter

.

is

Kim

.

.

out of school, [his

it's

a great

chance for her,

I

want

to

wife and daughter] over to Europe, and then

and Portugal on the way back, or something of that

send Judy and

maybe do Spain

sort, if that's all right,

two European countries on the way back, pick them up and bring 'em home."

or

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

178

Nixon, seeming

to ignore the idea, says: "Well, the other possibility

was thinking — hand

that

I

Agnew: "Then

of,

have

I'd

Nixon: "Oh, not

was thinking of possibly

I

at

go

to

Iran

all.

can go to without going to

is

Agnew

On

the other

to Israel."

the one country fin the Middle East] you

you

Israel,

something can be said about [going

But

Iran.

see,

it's

on the edge.

.

.

There's

.

there]."

balks. "I'm not particularly eager to go," he says, as if dick-

ering with a hard-sell travel agent.

Nixon: "Neither would

I.

It's

Agnew

rather go to Egypt, but nevertheless." Still

suggesting an

alternative,

damned

a hell of a

Nixon

would

says so

says "the

place to go

to. I'd

he.

Greek thing" appeals

to

him, but there had been another problem there involving treatment of another administration member. "You can't do Romania, I've done that, or Yugoslavia," he says.

What

about elsewhere in the Balkans? "You're

an absolute cinch for no demonstrations for

damned

them,

I

sure," the president says.

think

it

Nobody's been

wouldn't

"And

to Bulgaria.

now

it?"

is

it's

I

is,

is

Bulgaria.

abnormal not

to

go

"Yes, pick

my

it

It is

me

into deep trouble,

Mr. President, with the Greek

going

to

just think myself,

Nixon: "You mean you would do

Agnew:

to

antecedents there, and the Greek-American

over Nixon's pitch again] think

could really go to any of

pulling Spiro Agnew's leg.

he observes. "The trouble

my

that's

They've always been enemies of Greece."

as if Nixon

nity here, I'd be catching hell for not

I

we

laughs nervously. "That would get

situation with

Greece.

if

would be good. Now, one we've never been

beginning to sound

Agnew

any of those countries,

in

to

Greece anyway. [Talking I

ought — me

think

Greece for

at the

commu-

end of your

I

to

go

let

them

to

trip."

family up there, send them over and

spend a few days over there."

Nixon: "Sure, by

Agnew: "But

I

all

means."

couldn't

let

them go

Nixon, not excited about the in

— Europe

unless

visit to

I

stopped."

Greece, suggests other countries

"Spain, Portugal" plus "one African stop,"

Agnew: "How about we've got

to refuel

somewhere on

the

way

back.

I

wonder about Saudi Arabia, [but) then I'd have to go to Israel." Nixon: [shaken again, more obviously now]: "Hell, no! Hell, no! Saudi Arabia's another country to go

to.

You

only have to go to Israel

if

you go

Anywhere but Peking

to

179

UAR [Egypt, the United Arab Republic] or Jordan. No,

would be

great.

Damn

sir.

The

Saudis

right ..."

Agnew: "Well, that's sort of on the way." Nixon [sounding even more like a travel agent]: "Saudi Arabia would be good. That would be interesting too. I've never been there, but I'm sure it would be." As for Greece, Nixon squelched that too, for the time being,

on grounds "you might give your detractors unnecessary

ammunition."

Nixon then arranges fast the

for

next morning "so

When Agnew

Agnew and

we can

sit

Kissinger to join

and

talk

about

it

him

for break-

in a leisurely way."

Haldeman and comments: "Say no to him [about the Greece visit] but do it in a nice way at least." Haldeman the gatekeeper replies: "He ought to sit down and talk to Henry about something like that, instead of coming in and putting you in an awkward position." Thus was the vice president of the United States diverted from unwitleaves, the president turns to

2

horning

tingly

Greece and

in

on Nixon's "opening

Israel.

world junket

In the process, he

to

China," as well as from going to

was getting

a first-class,

around-the-

of heavy diplomacy that had never been con-

in the guise

templated.

memo from

(A White House dicates that the

"With respect Only

memo

a bind

and

ily

it is

go

to

Kissinger's deputy Al

Haig wrote

this visit

in the

is

most important

Greece since he hates

A

few minutes

later,

to his boss in-

to travel

to

Korea

with

Secret/Sensitive/Eyes is

rapidly getting into

him, both personally

for

in parenthesis: "I

"Can you guess?" Nixon asks

know

so that he can leave his

his bride."

he

fam-

3

Kissinger comes in and Nixon and

have some fun with him about where

earlier.

will probably be State opposi-

Then Haig added

Greece before going

in

Top

"he [Agnew] said he

and he hopes, despite what

approved."

Haig

had already been discussed two weeks

later declassified,

politically,

to

trip

to Greece,"

and believes

tion that

wants

Greece

Agnew wanted

Haldeman

to go.

his national security adviser.

"Greece," Kissinger says, "a trip to Greece."

Nixon: "No."

Haldeman, mischievously: "Think.

Now

think big, Henry.

The

vice

president had to see the president this afternoon for five minutes on a very important idea that he had."

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

i8o

Nixon: "About the Kissinger:

trip."

"He wants

to take his

"

daughter

to, er.

.

.

Nixon: "No. Christ."

Haldeman: "Go

Kissinger: "Well,

Nixon: "No, no.

.

.

Where

.

"Was

.

would he want

else

— make

"Yeah,

[sarcastically]:

Kissinger:

.

to

go?"

Cyprus."

.

mind, Henry, and limited

tle

"

Greece and then.

first to

.

Kissinger: "Iran.

Nixon

To where?"

on.

a side stop. You're a

man

with a

lit-

China?"

it

Of course!"

Nixon: "China!

Haldeman: "Of course.

Why

would he come and ask

the hell

go

to

to

Iran?"

Nixon: "And

said

just wasn't quite

it

went down

Haldeman:

"Yes,

Nixon: "He

said couldn't

fore,

to

I

go

it

he ought to do China

We couldn't fit

he's

always been there be-

it

in."

same time,

that

it

would be

a

good idea

both places."

to

dilemma of what tells

to

do

to

keep

"The other

Kissinger:

just don't

his little joke his

part

with Kissinger, turns to the

junket-happy vice president is,

where the

satisfied.

he goes, and

hell else

I

know."

Kissinger:

"My

worry, Mr. President, about Greece,

gonna

say something that

they're

gonna

to play

for us. If we could get

is

going

to be in

to a fare-thee-well,

— it

Nixon: "Well, why don't you put that

yet.

pretty well."

he overfly Chiang,

at the

Nixon, finished with having

He

ready

it

to

you have considered [sending him

might very well be

in

is

he

is

sure as hell

every European newspaper;

and there

him

in the

to Greece]

isn't

anything in

morning

and

this

would

it

our interest in October for him to go. Can

it

way, be,

we

it

say

that?"

Kissinger says, "Sure," but probably us, the

China announcement behind

later.

us,"

"With the summit behind

he says, "we can [then] afford

having him around anywhere."

Nixon: "On the Greece thing, Kissinger: "But he's raised

it

he's

stubborn as hell



about twenty-five times.

eventually did go to Greece, in October.)

.

.

."

(Agnew

Anywhere but Peking

Nixon: Vietnam.

181

think he ought to go to Korea,

"I

think he ought to go to

I

" .

.

Kissinger: "Well,

be in there in Vietnam at the time."

I'll

Nixon: "Thailand."

"He can go

Kissinger:

much

as possible because

we'd

the world [while Nixon's India, Pakistan.

Thailand.

to

he should be out of Asia as

watching other parts of

China

He

go

to

to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia if

he

trip

is

being cemented].

can't

." .

.

but not Vietnam. Kissinger suggests to Nixon that "you can

wanted

to,

also

him

you want

[but!

.

like to get people

They agree Agnew could go tell

.

there's a

to tell

vice president

meeting with Thieu coming up

him," as

if the

and why he

just at that time. If

president has to justify his

can't

go

own

travel to his

there. Kissinger adds, incredibly, after

the ping-pong fiasco at Williamsburg: "He's pretty discreet."

Nixon continues for

Agnew, again

to rattle off to Kissinger other possibile destinations

in the

mode

of a tour director: "Saudi Arabia. Morocco.

Portugal and Spain. How's that?" Nixon says he should skip the Far East except for the inauguration in Korea.

"He

Kissinger:

shouldn't go to

says

let

Kissinger: "He's also very self-willed.

about his trip for three weeks. the country.

Nixon to

do

"They

Or wouldn't

that way.

though [not

He

I

mean,

really has

I've talked to

decide, well, wouldn't it

be great

if

I

." .

.

him now

never asked what's good for

plans this trip on what's interesting for

agrees:

Greece? it

He

either."

him go to Taiwan." he has to go to Taiwan because he always goes.

Nixon: "Oh, Christ, don't

Haldeman: "He

Taiwan

it

him

be great

if

to see." I

could return

took a trip to China? They mustn't

God dammit, I think we've got a pretty good excuse, Agnew pre-empt Nixon's historic opening to China]."

to let

Kissinger: "Oh, yeah. Well, China, he couldn't. If you told ahead, go to China, he wouldn't even

"We

know how

him go

to start."

Kissinger:

know how to get him "With whom would we go to?"

Haldeman

conjectures that Nixon's trip will have great impact, "some-

Nixon:

wouldn't

thing like Genghis

why

it's

Khan coming

into town,"

in."

and Kissinger says

important to get the Chinese "to keep their bar on other

visitors until

you get

there."

4

that's

political

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

l82

Agnew, however, kept

Chinese mainland. En route

an around-the-world chance

to visit

and

own

alive the flame of his

trip,

Korea

to

at the start

desire for a trip to the

of what turned out to be

he told accompanying reporters that "to have a

to converse directly

with the representatives of that

country would be quite a privilege," though relations between the two countries remained "basically quite hostile.'" Soon after, 5

broke of Kissinger's

Cormier of the Associated White House

China

trip to

source, that "President

no advance word of

to

advance Nixon's

He

Press stirred the pot.

his plan to visit

at first offered

mainland China." 6

Nixon

this latest

initiative to

ping-pong diplomacy. as a

member

or,

Agnew

Congo about

no comment. But privately he seethed

he couldn't keep a secret

own that

the plan,

worse, a fear that he might speak out against

China, as he had so recklessly done about the

Agnew

himself wrote

froze

know,

aides insisted afterward that he did

me

up

to

later: "I

presume

my

that

Communist China was

the

7

firm opposition to the

main reason

the

White

out of the Nixon discussions in that area." During his

overseas trip, he wrote, "some of Mr. Nixon's aides put out the I

was

this

of the National Security Council, of Nixon's plans to seek

policy of cozying

House

by

at the notion that

detente with China, and supported them, but not of the timing.

Agnew

Frank

visit,

reported, citing a

Nixon gave Vice President Agnew

time was in Africa, and asked by reporters in the

he

when news

sent out of the country so as not to be in

Henry

word way

Kissinger's



when he made his secret journey to China the journey which paved the way for the president's trip there the following February. Then they compounded

the felony by not notifying

press.

The

.

.

.

I

until after the story

story,

had access

because he well to

much

CIA

Security Council and

knew

I

secret information

briefings.

level

Agnew

would

through the National

But some of

his assistants

so they left

of distrust toward the vice president,

ident, then by his aides.

I

in the

never leaked anything

aware of my sentiments about courting the Chinese, Such was the

broke

president certainly had no reason to believe that

have leaked the although

me

never could be sure

if

me

were out."

s

not by the pres-

who was

the culprit,

because Nixon so seldom communicated with him directly.

Even

after

Nixon had detoured Agnew around mainland China, he

was nervous about having him free-wheeling

Harlow to accompany him, but without informing Harlow was being sent along to keep an eye on him,

cided to assign Bryce

Agnew

directly that

across the globe. So he de-

Anywhere but Peking

but Harlow's presence did not prevent more

was intended as an uneventful month-long strated political insensitivity in Africa.

Madrid

Agnew trip,

On

missteps.

what

he once again demon-

Aboard Air Force Two en route

to

he volunteered to accompanying reporters his impressions

later,

of the black leaders he had met in the Dark Continent.

He

Jomo

said

Kenyatta in Kenya, Haile Selassie in Ethiopa, and Joseph Mobutu in the

Congo "have impressed me with

their

problems, and their moderateness."

He

understanding of the internal

said the three authoritarian lead-

were "dedicated, enlightened, dynamic, and extremely apt

ers

for the task

Then he added: "The quality of this leadership is in diswith many of those in the United States who have abrotinct contrast. gated unto themselves the position of black leaders; those who spend their that faces them." .

.

time in querulous complaint and constant recrimination against the of society." ing the

He

work

said

that has been

The comments, to

American black done"

Martin Luther King

in the three

came

volunteered,

Baltimore black leaders in the

tion of

much

by observ-

African nations.'

off as an echo of his hostile remarks

wake of the 1968

On

Jr.

leaders "could learn

rest

riots after the assassina-

learning of them, a leader of the

Con-

gressional Black Caucus, Representative William Clay of St. Louis,

proclaimed on the House all

the

symptoms of an

leadership tion.

is

just part

Apparently Mr.

lectual

"Our

vice president

intellectual misfit.

of a

game

Agnew

is

is

seriously

ill.

He

has

His recent tirade against black

played by

him

mental masturba-

called

an intellectual sadist

who experiences

intel-

orgasms by attacking, humiliating, and kicking the oppressed.""

According tional.

floor:

to Vic

He was

1

Gold, Agnew's airborne outburst also was inten-

incensed,

Gold

said later, that

Nixon had

sent his vice

president on the round-the-world trip on a windowless plane, and that he

was kept

in the

dark about Nixon's plans

treated like baggage," trip

Gold

said,

to

go

to

China.

and Agnew not being

"We were

told of the

was "humiliating. That pissed him off mightily." Agnew

told

the plane after the African stops, he said, that "the black leaders

China

him

we have

in the

United

States, they're not real leaders" like those

Then,

telling

Gold he knew the reporters traveling were unhappy

they hadn't had

much

he had

in

just met.

access to him, instructed his press secretary:

that

"You

them up here, call them up here right now. They want news? I'll give them news. I'm going to give them something they're going to want to jump out of the plane [to report]."

call

11

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

i8 4

In any event, the next issue of Newswee\ carried a blistering account of

Agnew's

including the African fiasco.

trip,

It

played golf in Singapore, Korea, and Saudi Arabia, the

first tee

"He had already and now he stood on

began:

of the best private club in Kenya's capital of Nairobi, swinging machete. You guessed

his driver like a

it,

sports fans. This

was no touring

pro nor even a salesman of exploding golf balls, but Vice President Spiro

Agnew,

currrently flailing his

way around

as international troubleshooter,

The

article

reported that

sons (not counting eleven

the world in his newest role

diplomat and spreader of goodwill."

Agnew had

"traveled with a party of 141 per-

newsmen paying

caravan of four Boeing 707s



their

men and

around the world

to aid

way), flying in a

plus a cargo plane carrying

proof Cadillacs for Agnew's dash from airport Eighty Secret Service

own

two

bullet-

to hotel to golf course.

countless embassy personnel were alerted

and protect the

vice presidential person,

and he

moved everywhere inside a cocoon of human flesh that never failed to dazzle his hosts." The story quoted Nairobi's Daily Nation'. "No head of Nairobi ever had such security."

state arriving in

The Newsweef^ account ernment

said

Agnew had

given short shrift to local gov-

and "aside from hacking up the

officials

local golf course, his

main outing was

to a

nearby hunting lodge, where

private physician

and

his pretty, red-haired secretary,

nos copulating."

The

12

story infuriated

American ambassador to

submit

it

to

company with his he watched two rhi-

in

Agnew, and quickly brought in

Newswee\

a

telegram from the

Nairobi asking the vice president's permission

among other Agnew had won

as a letter to the editor. It said,

up" the golf course,

things, that, rather than "hacking

"more than half the holes he played" with two important Kenyans and himself; that he

had spent nearly two-and-a-half hours, not the

minutes reported, with Kenyatta and

his cabinet,

and rode around

fifteen in the

ambassador's "four-year-old Chrysler," not one of the two bullet-proof Cadillacs mentioned.

13

Even before Agnew returned

to

Washington, Nixon also was fuming

over those reports that the vice president had spent an excessive amount

of time in Africa on the golf links, with rious business.

A

Nixon conversation

little

in the

pretense that he was on se-

White House taped

time recorded him lamenting to Ehrlichman: "I've never seen [travel] in a

more

leisurely way.

I

didn't realize

it,

at the a

guy

but Bob |Haldeman|

"

Anywhere but Peking

me

i8 5

God-damned day of his trip. You've got to make it appear the trip's for That's utter stupidity. work. You're not over there on a God-damned vacation. I feel that way, Spending four hours anyway. I don't mean a guy's gotta be a grind. told

he [Agnew] played golf every .

.

.

.

on

a golf course

and not have enough time

with people in the trips

my

with

sion. ...

street. Jesus Christ,

wife

we worked our

had nothing substantive.

I

.

.

go out and shake hands

to

you know, when

butts off.

He had

far

And

it

I

went on these

made an impres-

more of substance than

I

had, but our trips really had a better effect because, by God, you were out there talking to the people, visiting hospitals and going through plants.

." .

.

Ehrlichman, who had no

love for

Agnew, chimes

ing to end up with enormous negatives. in

.

.

.

in:

There was

"This

trip

is

go-

a devastating piece

."

one the newsmagazines.

.

.

Haldeman: "Newsweek^r Ehrlichman: "[The reporter] climaxed

the report by saying that one

of the highlights of this trip was an evening in Kenya or somewhere in Africa where he and his personal physician and a very attractive red-

headed secretary came

down from

their hut to

watch

a pair of rhinocer-

oses copulate."

Nixon

|laughing|: "Bull-shit! Really?

Ehrlichman: "Look

Must be quite

at those fuckin' rhinoceroses!"

Haldeman: "Rhinoceri!" Ehrlichman: "It's a sort of Roman Emperor with a big

— entourage, and

Nixon: "Well, overdone shot

it.

.

.

I

act that he's putting on,

mistake. We've overdone

that's a

But

a sight."

mean, the

Kennedy and Bobby.

.

.

security business,

The

.

it,

believe me.

We've

you know, because they

Secret Service. Christ,

I

went with two

[agents]."

Ehrlichman: "But people to be

work being done.

will

.

allowances as long as there seems

.

Nixon: "Did he have quite off on another

make

."

monologue on

a staff with

him?" The president then goes

his vice presidential days,

comparing him-

Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey in the same Haldeman: "The vice president had his opportunity, for

self to

He was

brought

place over if he

in here and.

wanted

to.

." .

.

.

.

role.

Christ's sake.

the son of a bitch could have taken the

1

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

86

Ehrlichman: "That's the very problem with the Constitutional officer, and his job

have

it,

he's

gonna turn

is

When

because the president told you what

Haldeman: "Well, all

over him.

what he makes

into a big pussycat, just

time. What's he going to create?

now

is

that he has all

it.

.

If

.

.

he doesn't

around bitching it

all

the

wasn't

[to do]."

the Secret Service. They're the ones.

He does anything

Nixon: "In

sit

you were vice president,

.

.

They walk

.

they want."

Ehrlichman: "That's your point about sition

vice president. He's a

fraternizing. I'm afraid his po-

no leverage with the Secret

the period I've been president

Service.

and

." .

.

vice president, or

eight years prior, I've never had a drink with a Secret Service agent, never.

way

I

Or

lunch, or anything.

operate."

Agnew

In succeeding days, his trip

Not

a

God-damned

thing. That's just the

14

had been characterized

told friends he

was

also disappointed that

means of keeping him out of the way

as a

during the negotiations for Nixon's

visit to

China. In an interview with

the Christian Science Monitor, he said he fully supported Nixon's trip, and that his

remarks on ping-pong democracy

at

Colonial Williamsburg had

been "misunderstood and obfuscated to an extent." Then, unable well

enough

which the that this

alone, he added: "But

initiative

was

meant an end

mainland China and of course,

Agnew

is

not

received.

distressed with the euphoria with

There was an immediate assumption

realistic.

between the United States and

to all tensions

.

.

.

We've got

our ideological

He did observe that

would

latter

"at least we've

all difficulties,

made

did the words sound like those of a

a step to-

we should become

so

don't bring

they should be discour-

remark could hardly have been received

Office as a rousing burst of optimism from

Nor

This,

be seen as rain-

feel that in case these discussions

about an immediate resolution of

The

way to go." comment could

these matters," but "I don't think

optimistic that people

difficulties.

long

a

did not seem to grasp that his

ward discussing

aged."

am

a resolution of all

ing on Nixon's parade.

15

I

to leave

in the

Oval

the vice president himself.

man who

could be counted on to

generate a positive outlook in a second term that Richard Nixon was

contemplating, with thoughts of excluding Spiro

Agnew from

it.

now

Chapter 13

COURTING CONNALLY

During Agnew's

absence,

Nixon had repeatedly counseled

Haldeman and Connally about what to do about the erratic vice president. When Harlow left the Agnew party and returned early from with

some

the trip, he reported

interesting intelligence to

Haldeman

versations with the vice president.

Nixon based on con-

wrote: "Bryce says that he

thinks that there's a three out of four chance that of his

VP

will

has

some very

to take

withdraw from the

At

battle of the press if [they're]

this point,

pretty

however,

all

with Connally. In mid-July,

much

was going to

to

when

it

this

come.

.

.

and wants

lined up."

a

new

so that

Nixon's romance

in

treasurer of the United States secretary),

Connally blew

his

had been done without consulting him. Haldeman wrote "as a result of this

and other

things, he

check out. In other words, resign." Haldeman said he tried

calm him "but he didn't buy

erate

and that he

1

suddenly was not rosy

Texan was "furious" and

that the

volition, the

from outside the government;

was hired (separate from the job of treasury stack because

so,

lucrative outside offers that he'd like to take on,

on the

things look as

own

probably in January or

ticket,

it.

He

said that he just wasn't going to tol-

kind of thing; that obviously

it's

forecasting things to

he was not a peon and was not going to function as a slave to the

White House

staff."

2

When Haldeman

informed Nixon, the president

tried to

smooth

things out by inviting Connally to dinner on the Sequoia, with the plan,

Haldeman

wrote, to discuss the idea of

making him

vice president,

and

187

i

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

88

we

"if

work

can't

that out, we'll

go

for secretary of state," with efforts al-

ready afoot to discard Nixon's old friend,

5

Rogers. Connally declined

Bill

the dinner invitation, but three days later

Nixon met with him

for

two

hours during which the president, according to Haldeman, "took him on

which he meant he talked

the mountaintop, by

to

him about

4

presidency" again, as well as his latest reservations about

the vice

Agnew

in light

of his remarks in Africa.

On for

White House tape Nixon can be heard saying

a

example what he

been more

He was

right.

Agnew had

Negroes

said about the

what

I

put his criticism. All he had to

would

He

couldn't have

Nixon despairs about how

exactly right." But

"American Negroes should be proud of

"Take

to Connally:

in Africa.

say,

Nixon

offers,

is

that

their African heritage, that's

say."

Connally speculates that

Agnew

"feels like.

.

.

he

is

protecting the con-

servatives, because he's the voice, he's the only only link to [what] the real

conservatives in the Republican Party really ought to stand for." But,

summer

Connally cautions, "by next a liability to

you unless

you do

using

start

him

y'all

in

the reelection campaign], he'll be

[in

have an understanding. Very simple, unless

such a

way

you make

that

a constructive force

out of him. ... If you've tried and you're not successful, that gives you 5

your answer." As always, Connally was playing the wise and impartial counselor,

whose advice did nothing

as prospective

Agnew

replacement.

In another conversation on the aides about "I've

met

diminish himself in Nixon's eyes

to

same day with Ehrlichman and other

Agnew's reported remarks

a lot of black African leaders.

.

in Africa, .

.

I've

Nixon observes

that

always been impressed by

and again, that "black Americans can be very proud of

their leaders," their heritage."

Then he

turns to Ehrlichman and says, "Right, John?"

Whereupon Ehrlichman

snickers, laughs,

and

replies:

"Among

other

things."

Nixon goes on

to say

he just cannot understand what was the purpose

of Agnew's remarks in praising African autocrats by denigrating

American black

leaders.

Ehrlichman responds that "the sad part of

come out

NAACP

[convention] and

that

Roy Wilkins had

said,

'Look, we're gonna have to live with this fellow [Nixon]

we'd better

The

start

delegates,

just

to the

learning to get along with him.'

Ehrlichman

tells

him,

"all

blasted

And

it is

'til

'76, so

then this was said."

him Agnew], |

the press

— Courting Conn ally

exploited

it

quite a

They were more

and some of the blacks were pretty smart about

bit,

in

189

sorrow than anger;

'Isn't

it

too bad that the president

has this albatross around his neck,' that kind of a line, which

probably in the long haul

about

going

isn't

"but

says,

effective than if they

had been

I

think

strident

it."

Nixon brings he

more

is

it.

we

the discussion

down

Mobutu

"What what

or Kenyatta? Hell,

That's the point that

I

Agnew

much of their strident opposiway we may get a few more

ourselves well, and that

white votes, maybe." But he asks: praising

he knows

to "cold politics," saying

of the black vote regardless of what

simply aren't going to have as

we handle

tion if

much

to get

world did he gain by

in the in the

couldn't see. Christ,

I

world does that do us?

mean,

if

you take 'em on,

sure, the black leaders are irresponsible here."

Ehrlichman breaks

"But

in:

it

wasn't the kind of a crack that would

get any redneck support."

Nixon: "That's ing blacks, period.

my

The rednecks down

people too; they think

all

Of all

one.

You know

any

sort of representative

And

cally.

.

need

to look

.

.

that's the

down our

there think they're a

They

blacks are terrible.

that there isn't a democratic

that?

howled because he was

point. Hell, no, they

in the

of the nations in Africa, not one

way

it's

going

to

noses at them.

all

is

world, not

adequate

at

dictatorships, basi-

be for a long time.

The

bunch of bad

point out, properly so,

government run by blacks

government. They're

prais-

And we

don't

Latin Americans have been

way for a hell of a long time, and will be, probably." Ehrlichman offers a possible explanation for Agnew's

that

Mobutu, president of the Congo: "Mobutu, I'm table in a high

know, the

French continental

flare,

and

it

may

away with all that." Nixon says of Mobutu:

style,

with

told, sets a

praise of

magnificent

of the delicacies and, you

all

be that the vice president was just kind of car-

ried

"Incidentally, he's quite an impressive fellow

big, strong, vigorous guy; over here

on

to say of

would be pushing

Agnew's discussing American

policy

president of the Republic of Congo: "First of

sod."

Then he

goes

toward China with the

all, if

he has doubts he

should never express them to a foreign government. Second, as you

know, Mobutu

is,

you know

that,

is

a child! He's a child

ently pointing to his brain], because he's never

up

here.

God,

it's

just unbelievable to

me.

." .

.

had

a

up here [appar-

chance

to

grow

up,

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

190

Going back

Agnew, Nixon

to

ing of his role as vice president: honest, this

is

what

"He

of the White House

None

views of his own.

Nixon goes on dent

I

his

who

He may

.

.

.

that "they

a

is

member

honestly

who

is

a

of a cabinet has no

have any."

can't

knew

the vice president, or

is

who

or

staff,

He

misunderstand-

has a compulsion to say, 'Well, I'm

honestly think.' Well, that's great.

I

think something, but anybody

member

on

starts to discourse

when

for eight years

I

was

vice presi-

never expressed a view that was not Eisenhower's," though he had

some. "The thing about

this, is that

having done that for eight years, they

am smart enough to know that a vice president is supposed to simply be the echo of the president, and that Agnew wouldn't be doing this without my knowledge and/or approval. And think that

I

as President

I

think that's the real problem. Don't you think

Ehrlichman

so,

John?"

seizes the opportunity. "I think this all the time,"

he vigor-

ously agrees.

Nixon: "A

of people think, 'Well,

lot

ways supports the doesn't he

which

vice president,'

know you need

your

credibility,

and

time.

that's

.

and they

do,

know

if

the president al-

say, 'Well, Christ,

about this?

Or

he's

mouth?"

Yep.

.

I

almighty,

he didn't

to say that

trying to speak with both sides of his

Ehrlichman: "All the

God

You

what makes

it

goes to

see, that's the thing. It

so terrifically difficult. Well, at

the right time, I'd like to get into this with you.

I

feel that

with so

much

going for you right now, you can't afford to have the sort of debilitating negative or detraction that's involved in the process under the existing

arrangement.

And

I

think he just has to be either brought aboard

or, ah,

or something."

Perhaps recognizing that he

move Agnew

aside,

is

Ehrlichman then

think we've done enough to get sealed

him

being too conspicuous in his desire to

off and just sort of,

says:

"And

him aboard.

I

in all

candor

think we've

and

just sort of, er,

day

at

assumed

all

I

don't

sort of

that nothing

could be done there."

Ehrlichman cides to

jump

is

in

having

a field

with his favorite comparison. "You know,

thing, though. You've got to

hand

it,

got a lot of guts, as he goes out there hell

Agnew's expense when Nixon de-

kicked out of him." In sum, Ted

I

must

say one

in another context, to Connally. He's

and

sticks his chin out

Agnew was getting

it

and gets the

with both bar-

Courting Connally

rels



in

191

Ehrlichman's all-out assault on him, and in Nixon's conspicuous

6 comparison with and preference for Connally.

The following brainstorm the

Nixon

day,

called in

Agnew problem

again,

Haldeman and Ehrlichman and the Connally solution

them, according to the Haldeman

told

proaching opening issue in the 1972

on the economy us.

Nixon

to

diaries, that

to

political

campaign, and the Democrats therefore would "zero

and the

VP

is

it.

with the ap-

China, he had foreign policy in hand as a

as the substantive issue,

to

in

way of cutting

the

Also he [Nixonj got into quite a long talk about the question of succes-

making

sion,

may

the point that he

not

live

through even

alone a second term, because of the possibility of accident or

"That

become

P.

let

health.

ill

of whether Agnew's somebody that we're

raises the question

willing to see

term,

this

He enumerated some

of his problems, that he's

dogmatic, his hidebound prejudices, totally inflexible and that he sees things in minuscule terms.

We

and we concluded

it's

out,

that

he apparently

in January, as

is

then talked about what to do to get him impossible for willing to

him

to

—such Harlow —

announce

do according

as

that

to

he will not run, because that would open a horrible battle for the nomina-

Agnew

tion. Also, that."

The

actual tape of the discussion, badly garbled, includes

that could be

position

is

would be

made

for

Agnew

an

Haldeman

second term, he suggests, "he'd have

"utterly useless.

[attraction]."

resignation.

Nixon

.

offers,

arguments

says,

"Agnew's

than his personal position, outside,

infinitely better

signs." In a

real

himself would be immediately dead once he does

7

.

.

But

as a

a

miserable

if

he re-

life"

former vice president, he'd be

and

a real

concerning Agnew's financial needs, that "the

thing that would help would be

if

he resigned and [could] do some-

thing for a network, become the president of one," which might be his only alternative because "no corporation pays that kind of

mer

vice president

tion,"

money"

a for-

would want. Nixon mentions the "Bob Hope connec-

and Haldeman suggests

"it

could be a combination of television,

writing and speaking" without the strictures of the vice presidency."

Nixon: "Speak out."

Haldeman:

"Tell

it

like

it is."

Nixon: "He could be quite

Haldeman: "Damn

right."

a celebrity too, couldn't

he?"

1

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

92

Nixon: "Have In

a hell

of an audience. Say what he

Nixon and

all this,

Agnew would want

feels

about blacks." 8

his inner circle sidestepped the

obvious reason

to continue as vice president: to position

himself for

the Republican presidential nomination in 1976.

According

to

Haldeman's

Connally question. the ticket

.

.

Connally.

is

Reagan would

clearly

We

ter.

.

.

him

Connally, ask

is,

to

the nomination,

Agnew

Given

is

that, the

just sit

to

down and

approach

to

was not

a

should

call

talk the

problem through,

." 9 .

.

Andrew

at the

also in-

Johnson, a pro— Civil

Union

fu-

time of the assassination. a

Democrat, and

Committee he could Agnew. Nixon obviously

rules of the Republican National

Democrat, Connally,

just speculating

After

I

John [Ehrlichman]

know whether Johnson had remained

whether under the a

it.

but

vice president as part of the National

under Republican Abraham Lincoln

nominate

it,

Haldeman's personal notes of the meeting, Nixon

War Democrat who was Nixon wanted

sooner he resigns, the bet-

one step away from

how

dis-

not going to be on the ticket, he

structed his aides to check on the history of

sion

which would be

for a couple hours of free time for

any ideas on

According

if

to stay

and me, and then we should see if he's got

to raising the

couldn't afford a battle, because out of that

resignation.

The P wants

.

"The P then got around

come up with

astrous. Conclusion then

must get off by

notes,

and made the point that only one we could put on

to replace

on what he liked

long meeting on

Connally and Haldeman

10

to call "the big play."

Nixon asked Haldeman to repeat the

labor issues the next day,

to stay behind,

and

told

Harlow had had with Agnew in Korea about resignpresident told Harlow, Haldeman relates, that "he has de-

conversation Bryce

The

ing.

vice

cided in his year.

.

.

and

down

step

own mind in that

that he should not try to wait until the

is

make up his mind whether he should Haldeman adds, "Bryce doesn't think that the

aware of the opportunity

that exists for

for the president to appoint a vice president, it.

.

.

it.

.

.

He

.

.

him

The

said,

'You know,

it's

to resign

and

and Bryce wasn't aware of

looked up the law because he didn't believe me.

morning and

this

of next

time he's got to

or not." But,

vice president

first

He came

back

not quite as simple as you outlined

president doesn't appoint the vice president.

The

president

nominates the vice president and the Senate confirms. So you gotta keep

"

Courting Connally

mind

that in

l

thinking about what you're going to do, the two of you

in

[Nixon and Connally]. The vice president has a burning passion

phone suddenly he can't do

drowning out Haldeman's next words.]

rings,

it

call

on another matter, Nixon

own

paign, that the president had suffered a heart attack. left

was on

vice president

whole

vice president].

goes on, "I

of what

lot

we have

feel

we do

had some

credibility.

.

.

."

For

announcement

here." His surprise

up

that's [the] reason,

So

you

don't

want

[this]

And

we'll

have time,

it

seems

that he

I

and

was

is,

the job

it.

and

is,

that

it.

all

But

"may

it,

[from

sure that,

I

say-

this direc-

a] strictly political

stand-

suppose from a very

self-

of your cabinet [advisers], just by the na-

understandable.

you

I

It

might well

be,

in the job

And when

that. If there

what

it

it

"You

really

would be

field,

in

see, the

needed and

basically,

you

in

And

basically every-

came down

to [protocol or]

was something important

whole economic

have a prestige and a backing

assuming of

might be the most miserable fellow

in this job, that's

Everybody.

in the

dis-

least

Agnew, you

with

I

a vice president has less to do, has less



will, the hell

you'd do

to

from your standpoint,

be, the, er, the president's, er, stand-in.

body would know

good

that's

not had with

would

politics

to this plan

interrupts, taking Connally to that mountaintop.

the point

we have

game of

have no ambition whatever in

in that position,

the world, because

point

was going

me

to

freedom of action than the ture of the job,

Nixon

however brief to go by without me

assume, to talk about

I

ish standpoint,

Nixon

I

third thing, I'm not at

course that

reelection as

going. "Mr. President," he says,

even further, I'm not sure this applies

The

Agnew

But

.

this reason,

come around

see, I've

is

discussion

ing again that you understand tion.

point.

.

.

.

Connally knows where Nixon I

.

."

cussed with you yesterday.

say,

attack

important to think in very, very bold terms, and step right

it is

I

cam-

to think in very bold terms, in total control terms,

leadership, it.

reelection

was [seeking

I

China, he says, was an example that "in the great

to

how

Nixon, that son of a bitch," Nixon

more vulnerable than

at least

I

about the

"The whole

says. "So they tried to run against Nixon; didn't work.

a

feels

experience

when he and Eisenhower were approaching their

would be

—and

starts talking

matter of presidential succession, recalling from his

from the

— [The

as vice president."

After taking the

in 1955,

9i

you would

be,

to do,

you would

that's just unbelievable, because,

you

see,

i

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

94

and

the relationship that you really totally different

Comparing

can

tell,

piles

it

a

thing."

But

own view

his

frankly was hoping

"I

is

Agnew, but he

just isn't

of the vice president

the kind of

down

a great idea, but is

.

.

.

it

We

just didn't

of the vice presidency, he

tried,

him and

all

.

we .

.

tried.

him

Continuing the hard

you gotta look

at

it

He

think

The

his

problem

wouldn't take,

we

all

these places

a chance to lead. It simply wasn't there."

Nixon

sell,

says:

"The important thing

is

this, that

from two standpoints, three standpoints. One, from

would be enormously I

view

there.

that sort of thing, but he didn't

the standpoint of the election, as a political judgment.

into office,

is

But

grasp the foreign thing and these dramatic things and tried to give

My

with.

He

Agnew in an office down here, And God-damn it, I don't say it was

that he just didn't understand the big play.

where we

way with

this

work out

could

tells

had

work, but we

tried every opportunity. I'd call

treated

Johnson never told

would work out

it

man

in the corner office.

it

really.

basically the president's alter ego.

is

vice president has got to be there.

you know,

is

on major decisions, and

well," he says, he wasn't in

God-damn

Connally,

While Eisenhower

on.

"Johnson had no respect for Humphrey, not

him

and we would have then,

with Eisenhower and Hubert

relationship

Humphrey's with Johnson, Nixon

him "extremely

I

than any president and vice president has had."

own

his

have,

I

it

helpful.

a

my view that it we

get

superb combination, because then

we

Two, from

would be

It is

the standpoint of after

could do things that ought to be done even now."

He

tells

Connally how, as Eisenhower's vice president, he often chaired

the cabinet can't

But

do

in

"Agnew doesn't

that today," he says.

terms of

be used and brings

and National Security Council meetings

me

this thing,

work with

I

in Ike's absence. "I

tend to understand. ...

have ideas about

how

There

is

now

try.

the vice president can

the president that are very far reaching.

to the other point.

I

And

that

not only the possibility of the

presidential survival, but also there's the idea of the presidential succession. In

my

view,

whoever

is

going

has got to be the next president.

to be vice president in the next

And

that's fine.

That's what

I

term

would

Now, we've looked through this whole thing. ... As you know, the whole damn cabinet, there's nobody in that cabinet that can do this job, not a damn one."

work

for.

I

would

set the

thing up so that

Connally [humblyj: "No."

I

could do

it.

— Courting Conn ally

Nixon: "There's nobody

moment

at the

in that

might

that just

195

The

Congress.

be able to

do

only one

might. But he's the only one, and Ford's got other fish to

have

the, he's a

good, regular, solid guy and

about

that.

party

would not take

.

.

Reagan, that

know

It's

leadership, like,

and

way,

it's

Let's face

and

it,

just can't be.

who

has the,

a

something I

.

.

just don't think he's the

I

You

can't

Ford doesn't

very

all,

I

to say

little

the country, the

guy

for

his strengths but

have a simplicity

And

it.

man

also

I

in this

the fire of

work with

the Congress as president. But any-

to think about."

said,

move now,

just

foreign and domestic understanding and the

er,

do think

I

I

if

the vice president's thinking about

know how you

don't

gardless of what happens,

really think

the course of this year, because is

of

first

know Reagan, I know

I

also who's able to

Connally: "As

there's.

fry.

somebody who has broad gauge, who has

got to be

just

making

Rockefeller, well,

it.

of the weaknesses there.

all

position.

.

can think of

I

would be Ford. Ford

it

precipate the thing, but re-

you ought

to [decide] very soon in

think every day that goes by, because he

I

man-

a sensitive

Haldeman: "That's another

him under

thing. You've got

[your]

thumb."

Connally:

"It builds

Haldeman:

"It eats

Connally: "That's

on him so much that

him." right.

And

then

he'll

get started,

and decide

he's got

to stay. ... It should be done."

Nixon: "Well, anyway, good talking

to you."

Haldeman wrote

in

later that

glowing account about

how

Nixon,

11

buttering up Connally with a

he would be his assistant president with an

option on the real thing in 1976, "didn't try to push Connally into any

kind of decision, obviously in

is

giving

want

him

a pretty

take

it,

Agnew

.

.

.

at all,

but he

in the right direction. It was, It's

clear that

Connally

feels

does have to go, and that he's basically decided that

but he's obviously not going to ask for

to be in that position. He'll

it

because [he] doesn't

have a pretty strong hand

to deal

from

may be very difficult to work with him, but it will be interestsee." The big man from Texas, playing the reluctant dragon,

now, and ing to

avoided pushing him

good shove

way, quite an historic meeting.

its

strongly that he'll

in fact very carefully

seemed

it

12

to be sitting pretty.

Chapter 14

WELCOME HOME, TED

In

light of the play given at home to some of Agnew's comments abroad, especially in Africa, and the speculation that he had been sent into temporary exile while Kissinger was on

Washington

sion to Peking, the vice president's return to

more than routine in hot

in late July

drew

interest.

Had Nixon wanted was

his sensitive mis-

to

dampen down

the talk that his vice president

water again, he could have motored over to nearby Andrews

Air Force Base in Maryland to welcome him home. Instead, he decided to leave the chore to Secretary of State Rogers.

On

deplaning,

hands with Rogers but said nothing. Both climbed into sped off to the White House. publicly, saying only he

When

had done "a

they arrived, fine job,"

Agnew shook

a limousine

and

Nixon greeted Agnew

and escorted him

into the

Oval Office.

But prior

to

that

cordial greeting,

Nixon had conferred with

Haldeman about how to put some distance between himself and Agnew in the wake of the controversial trip that Nixon insisted to his insiders was an inconsequential one. At the same time, however, Haldeman had advised him to make the tour sound important and successful, presumably to help deflect outside criticism and buck up Agnew. Doing so might also avoid further speculation that his vice-presidential tenure

jeopardy

— which indeed

it

seemed

to be, as witnessed

was

by Nixon's

in

own

taped comments.

197

i

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

98

Nixon already had

In this effort,

in

hand

memorandum from

a

Kissinger that said in part: "Reporting has indicated that the vice presi-

been a great success."

dent's trip as

that

it

quoted a comment from Nairobi

It

was "an outstanding success from every point of view," and

number of top

officials

have gone out of their way

to tell the

that "a

[American]

ambassador how pleased they were." Another from Kinshasa called Agnew's

unusual close friend-

trip "a very special gesture reaffirming the

ship between these

two

and

nations,"

Mobutu

that "President

expressed

great satisfaction with the long and frank discussion he had with the vice 1

president."

But Haldeman, concerned that the press might get an indication that

Nixon was

dissatisfied

with Agnew's performance on the

trip,

worried

about letting press photographers into the Oval Office for pictures of the

two men

The following White House tape illustrates the degree to which Haldeman orchestrated presidential events in the Nixon years, and the uncomfortable hot potato Nixon had on his hands in dealing together.

with, and possibly trying to get rid of, his vice president:

Haldeman: "Let 'em do

a

photo opportunity in the beginning and then

kick 'em out."

Nixon: "I'm not going

Haldeman: photo],

"I

to be there all by myself."

guess the problem

is,

as long as

takes

it

has the answer:

"On Agnew's

arrival,

I

press to

come

Andrews,

out, see

I'll

what

walk out and meet the

They can swing

right?

.

.

.

why

car,

mean? They're gonna

I

in.

.

.

get

all

[the

don't they

and get

all

the

drive in from

the press to be out there

getting their picture, then they don't get one inside.

ing.

do

thought of a nice com-

promise. Rather than having the usual picture in here,

have them drive up here and

lot

to

what do you do [with Agnew] while you're kicking them out?"

Nixon

of a

them

.

.

.

They've had

a hell

of pictures inside [rather than] one of us just sitting here talkIt's

much

better to get



Haldeman: "That shows you think people expect you to [go

Nixon:

don't

"I

want

Ehrlichman

reacts too

you can't do

that,

Haldeman

to]

the airport.

to overreact to the

much

him

like

you



I

don't

." .

.

damn

thing.

I

mean,

I

think

the other way, to say ignore him, because

Bob. Put yourself in his position.

agrees that

the vice president.

in effect greeting

." .

.

Nixon should not do anything

He asks: "Do you want him

to

unduly upset

to get off the ticket?

Naah.

"

Welcome Home, Ted

Have him

and kick us

quit,

199

in the ass?" Instead,

he suggests, Nixon needs

to have the relationship "seen on a positive basis with the reporters, right?

After

he's got

all,

in his

it

Nixon agrees: "The Haldeman: "That's ing to be done.

.

.

.

He

hands

I

or leave]."

God-damn good." his own right. There's

relationship's got to be right.

can

He's elected in

screw

still

Nixon: "You're God-damn not to run,

[to stay

right.

— mean

noth-

[us]." .

.

He

can disagree and

I

can

tell

him

Haldeman: "You can keep him from running, and you can in effect strip him of all his duties, but you can't get him out of office. It's just ridiculous."

Nixon: "What's John [Erhlichman]'s argument, that and

should have nothing to do with him,

I

Haldeman: "John, it's kind of funny. this. He's not making any sense." Nixon: "Well, he thinks

Haldeman: "He

Agnew

just thinks

is

unpopular

he's

that basically it?"

John's usually very balanced

on

a liability."

is

you should

clear

your hands of him com-

pletely."

Nixon:

"It's

not the time to do

Haldeman: "Don't Nixon: "No way.

let

then that hurts you.

good

stories

What

parts of his trip,

make

that

is

say his trip is

and there were good

the point that he's

you know,

would do

you've got to do

contacts, that there probably

the right,

off on you."

No way."

Haldeman: "And what the

though."

it,

him rub

was

a reason for

parts.

Even

him

the worst press

in his diplomatic

to be

moving around

fascist nations, the dictator-type nations,

were making your move

to the

communist

Sure he [Agnew] said some stupid things.

state.

You

and

say that, you've got to play

done an outstanding job

was

a failure,

while you

People see [your] intent.

can't dissociate

from those

by not meeting him, by washing your hands of him."

Nixon:

"It's just

to write about.

mies than

how

Agnew on

me

him

thing,

this tour

a

which

.

is

to treat things.

.

than anybody,

bad press for

an honest report on

of a good job.

way

There was

a lot

bad

Curious that Henry, [who] probably got more violent ene-

they gave

'Give

not the right

it.

.

.

.

all

the

wrong

reasons.

though, about I

asked him,

How'd he do?' He said, 'He did a hell made a hell of a plus out of some-

better than anybody, he

sort of a

feels strongly,

minor negative."

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

200

Haldeman: "And cheap shot

What

at the end.

play golf with

them

the other thing he's done, he gave

Frank

a beaut of a

he did yesterday in Portugal, was go out and

Sinatra.

So what was the press story?

Agnew

ends

he began, with a game of golf today with Frank Sinatra." Nixon [chagrined]: "He played with Sinatra." Haldeman: "Yeah, [pause] That's not all bad either. I mean, that's

his trip as

ten a bad twist as well as a

had

good one.

.

.

But he should have ended

.

went out and played golf yesterday afternoon. And what he's seen this

is

that way, so he did. can't just

won't

bad press about the golf and

and gone out and played every day

tards,'

You

—he

luncheon with the American community or something and then

a

sure,

got-

listen to

we were

He

blame

'Screw the bas-

said,

Screw the mickey

after that.

could have overcome that with just a

He

though.

his people,

advance men, or he doesn't

won't

And

will

and won't do.

he wouldn't

listen to Bryce.

sure, Bob,

He When

them.

people schedule him.

let

me on

schedul-

has very firm ideas on what he

going to play

If he decides he's

Nixon: "I'm not

He

little [skill].

listen to

talking about scheduling, he wouldn't listen to

ing.

done, I'm

he's

golf,

he plays

."

golf.

everybody watches these things as

.

.

we

do,

though."

Haldeman: [and take

shot at

a]

Nixon:

"It's

think they do.

"I don't

him

that he doesn't have to take."

the whole story

Haldeman: "He pays doing something

[also]

He

tell

press people

my career

damned near them

else to give

has not seen the press at

he won't

[of]

too high a price for

he could have played

golf,

all

on

tells

..."

He could have played much golf as he did. by

it.

as

.

.

.

.

.

a story. That's the other thing.

this trip,

them anything. Nobody

who have

think they watch what he does

I

which

I

find important,

and

them anything. He's got eleven

paid probably ten thousand dollars apiece to

make

God-damned tour. he doesn't see them, and he doesn't do anything to make news. His meetings are all private meetings and they don't give them any briefing apparently afterwards, so they don't know, I was this

.

told.

.

They're flying around the world, their editors are probably

— steaming

'For Christ's sake,

you haven't

filed a line

can

.

.

file

.

of copy

we yet.'

[what happened], which

[sat] in his

hotel

spent

all

that

money

So what are they gonna

is,

that he

just

to send you and file?

Well,

we

went out and played golf or

room and played gin rummy with

his Secret Service

Welcome Home, Ted

agents. If

were the

I

do the same

"And

thing,

five

days or two weeks, I'd

think.

I

you know. Hell, on the way

so easy,

it's

about four or

press, after

201

to the golf course,

he

could stop at an orphanage and pat a couple of kids on the head and the press gets a picture

and

a little

how

quote about

he says

And nobody

kids are orphans, and he could go on and play golf. it's

so easy.

.

.

.

them

[Or] you'd give

and you drive them out of

k"2

their

so

much

too bad these

it's

cares,

that they couldn't cover

minds physically

it,

'cause they couldn't

eep up.

When Agnew and

Rogers

from the

finally arrived

Andrews Air

trip at

Force Base, Nixon met them outside the White House. Inside, they held a long post-mortem on Agnew's Scali, a

who was

former newsman

attended by Kissinger and John

trip, also

then a special consultant to the presi-

dent. Nixon, after having privately complained at length to his associates

about the vice president's golf-playing "vacation," proceeds to front of

them

—and Agnew—

"The

substantive undertaking!

mission like

this," the

people, the public, to is

what

really

Agnew that. It

that

really

difficulty,

.

.

.

It's

the hell

had been an important and

of course,

him

taping system has

know what

happens.

it

is

beneficial,"

he

in

any kind of a

"it's

very hard for

is

saying,

done. But what really matters

worth doing."

unsurprisingly picks up on Nixon's

was

insist in

insists.

drift. "I

enjoyed doing

"The problem of course was,

the public

impression of the trip was pretty bad, because what the press really

wanted was plain

[it]

for

was

me

to talk to

a useful trip."

poor people in the

He

streets. ...

.

.

tried to ex-

complains of the coverage, saying

point a reporter had pointed out "there were starving

eased babies along the streets.

I

and that

I

went

into

women

at

one

with dis-

towns and talked

to

teenagers."

Nixon [heatedly]: "Oh, for Christ's sakes, isn't that too bad! What in the name of God could you do? About the starving babies?" Nixon segues into yet another monologue about his own trips as vice president, then turns to Rogers

and

says:

"But God-damn,

Bill, it

makes

you wonder about having somebody go abroad." Such observations

Nixon

as being sympathetic to

the press

about

—not

how

Agnew

in the the

surprising in itself from a

treatment he got from

man who never tired

he himself was treated by reporters.

cast

of whining

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

202

Agnew, resuming

lament about the

his

press: "I

want

to give

you

a

couple of reactions, Mr. President. First of all, there wasn't a single media did anything on his initiative, didn't raise a single question that had to do

with [the substance of the

trip]."

Nixon himself brings up

the story, so aggravating to

not having been informed of the China initiative. the story as "crap" and "unfair," although to

keep the plans from

all

but his inner

The

Agnew, about

Nixon had gone

circle,

his

president describes to great pains

including Agnew.

him now: "He [Rogers] brought it up this morning. ... I didn't read the article. That was the one you were so mad about. We can say with regard to the China mission, you remember our breakfast, it Nixon

tells

.

was

you talked about the

And

we

.

of us [Nixon, Kissinger, and Agnew]. If anybody in the

just the three

administration had any hint about

ing on here

.

possibility,

it,

and

you had, before you I

said, 'Well, there's

can't talk about [which

left.

Remember,

some things go-

was not exactly what Nixon had

we couldn't talk about it is that we didn't know until Henry got to the God-damn place whether it would wash. And we were scared to death that if anything [happened] as a matter of fact we didn't know until Henry got to Pakistan, I didn't know, he didn't know, said].'

the reason

.

.

.



whether the Chinese were going

Agnew, taking

to

come

across [to

this all in, decides to tell

meet him]."

Nixon then and

which was

culprit in leaking the negative story against him,

true in saying he hadn't been informed of the plans, president's

Agnew:

own "I

there that the technically

was somebody

in the

entourage.

think the story got started and caused

all

the press furor and

my not being informed, that got started

speculation about

because

it

came

out of the White House, and that was the problem."

Rogers:

"Who? By God,

that's

something."

Agnew: "It came out of the White House, a White House source. It came through the same source that we've [had] trouble with before." Rogers: "Do you know who it is?" Agnew: "I have a feeling I know who it is, but I'm not going to say because

I

don't trust



Nixon: "You think

Agnew: "Because Nixon: "Well,

Agnew: "No,

it

it

it

it

did, out of the

came through

same bunch."

come from the NSC? come from the NSC."

didn't

didn't

White House?"

the

Is

that

what you mean?"

Welcome Home, Ted

Nixon: "All

Kissinger: "It didn't

Nixon: "Well, Department.

.

know

right, I've got to

.

you

tell

I'll

and

Bill

.

come from

I

it

did."

NSC." That

the

this.

were out

The meeting then breaks

if

203

it

come from

didn't

there. It didn't

come from

the ."

State.

.

.

cacophony of denials from

into a confusing

Rogers, Kissinger, and others in the Oval Office, until Nixon says to

Agnew:

know who you

"I'd just like to

was

sion that

false."

Nixon

think

that created an impres-

it is,

the old wire-service reporter: "I

tells Scali,

want you to take the responsibility through your sources and so forth, and

make

a big play out of this

much

there's so

without being too obvious. But you know,

crap written about the vice president's

sent abroad without any

he was

trip, that

knowledge of what was going on [about Nixon's

You can speak with authority with the wire services' thoughtful guys, that we have all been outraged by the covThe trip came at a very important time, it was very erage of this thing. China

trip],

was

it

just a junket.

.

important to those

.

.

regard to the Mideast, going to those areas, important to go

in

African countries.

want the impression and had

the world,

left,

all

.

.

.

You know how

which

do

unfair, that after

is

these talks with people,

press request of the president

to

it.

But

you go

which

he's

I

just don't

around

clear

done

at the ex-

and the secretary of state."

Rogers, picking up on his boss's lead, reports that he has talked that

morning with foreign Agnew's

One

trip.

and asked what they thought of

service officers

of them, Rogers says, told him he "was disappointed

with the newspaper coverage and the trip was a great success." "all

He

says

the people in the foreign service in contact with the vice president

were very impressed" by have

his

performance and "how important

kind of quiet reasssurance" from him.

this

"We

it

was

to

didn't need any-

thing on television."

Nixon then size this.

The

drives

home

the point to Scali: "I think

vice president's trip

kind of goodwill

trip; that

was

we should empha-

a substantive trip

we hope good

will

and not the usual

comes out of the substance,

but the purpose was to have hard, substantive talks about areas on a bilateral basis.

.

ports], this

.

.

is

You're the a

man to do

.

.

You can

just say [of the press re-

"Mr. President, I've already checked into that in the de-

partment because, Mr. President, I

.

bad rap."

Scali pipes up:

explanation

it.

get

was

I

that everyone

was enormously concerned, and the was

so absorbed with

China

that [the

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

204

Agnew

trip

ond and

went] through the magazine without the usual editing, sec."

third double-check.

Nixon

them

just beat

Agnew,

tells Scali:

"What

.

.

I'd like to

[the press] over the

replies: "I

think this

is

do

is

get the facts and figures and

head with them."

Nixon

that."

something

that's

I

finally dismisses Scali, telling

deserve to travel

all

think

him

can hold the lead

I

that

around the world and get kicked

not true."

The

Agnew

Agnew

to

at his

about

president finally concludes the debriefing 3

most benignly two-faced. After arranging

for

go off on what Nixon recognized was only an elaborate vaca-

and rapping him

tion,

"doesn't

in the ass

of his vice president by saying, "Well, glad to have you back."

Here was Nixon

turning to

beginning to percolate a realization that

they have been unfair, Mr. Vice President, and

on

Scali,

for playing so

much

golf,

he was justifying the jun-

ket for Agnew's sake before Rogers and Kissinger,

on grounds

it

really

was

substantive.

He was

who knew

the facts,

even drawing from

his

own

experience as a seasoned junketeer as vice president.

(Much

Agnew

later,

Agnew's press

secretary,

Gold, said in an interview that

damning story was Scali of Agnew, who had been assigned by Nixon to deny that

believed the mysterious leaker of the

himself, no fan

the vice president had been in the dark about his secret mission to

Peking!)

The

4

next day,

when Nixon

what he thought of Agnew's

asks Colson, a staunch trip,

he says

it

Agnew

defender,

had been "disastrously

Agnew

ported." Nixon, again in his sympathetic mode, confides that

"was

really, really

the devil."

And when Colson

Agnew was tries,

traveling to

Nixon, the

his plan.

He

it

He wanted

feels he's

what people thought were

we

.

.

.

He

wasn't our

fault.

He wanted

to take a vacation,

really got a

in

and

he's

tells

bad deal and we

to go,

and that was

think he did, and play that goal right

was

that

breaks

in:

you know.

"Well, It

was

it."

Colson: "Well, all

hurt as

insignificant coun-

suggested the itinerary,

Nixon, piling on the empathy, out.

been done

speculates that part of the problem

man who had

matter of fact,

as a

very hurt.

re-

it

work him that

will all

make it clear to down the line" even

gotta



as he's

thinking of ditching him.

Colson: "We'll be looking for some places we can get him into where

we

can

start rebuilding."

"

Welcome Home, Ted

Nixon: "Gotta get

we ought

to

do

that.

205

a place

where he

Where

people cheer him.

good reception.

gets a

They

isn't all that bad. Let's try to figure a place like that.

that if we

do

it,

we

Colson says he

him

get

will find a place.

personally that we're

all

about

to go. He's so tender

Nixon

backing him up, because

it

that's

think

you know.

The main at the

"And

him:

tells

will,

just

I

let

It

thing

is

moment."

him know

very important."'

On the very next day in a conversation with Haldeman captured by the taping system, however, Nixon

is

When Haldeman

Agnew

complains that

request for several days, tude.

.

.

.

For

Nixon

Christ's sakes,

knocking

says:

"That shows

you know, when

body from the White House,

his vice president again.

tried to put off a

was

I

a chicken-shit atti-

vice president, any-

wouldn't fool around.

I

White House

important business. But you know, Bob, you've got to face

I

knew

was

it

This fellow

it.

lacks a basic, he's got a streak of smallness in him, that's his problem.

I

hate to agree with the press on anything, but I'm afraid they see that.

Don't you? They see that aloof,

and

all

he's got a lot

the rest, but by

that's unbelievable."

Agnew had

God

of

class.

.

.

.

He's articulate,

he's got this personal streak

classy,

of smallness

6

The next week's issue of Newsweek^ had an item headlined: "Dump Agnew?" It said the Kenya incident "underscored the shaky place that Agnew now occupies in the hearts and minds of many Republican leaders, especially on Capitol Hill. Spirologers particularly noted how energetically the White House next reason to be upset by now.

dissociated itself from the Veep's observations about the blacks."

This, taken together with the transparent fact that in

advance of the president's plans

Agnew], was read cle

as a sign

to visit

China

Agnew

wasn't told

[angrily disputed by

of deepening disaffection

at the top.

The

arti-

quoted an unidentified Republican senator: "There's hardly anyone

among Republicans up It

was speculation,

room of

here

who

thinks

in fact, that

he'll

be on the ticket in 1972.

was spreading well outside the cloak-

the U.S. Senate. After two-and-a-half years of Spiro

vice presidency, his

name, which,

as

it

would

be.

Agnew's

he had predicted, had become a

household word, was not always being uttered

had hoped

left

7

in the laudatory sense

he

Chapter 75

PLOTTING THE BIG SWITCH

For

for all of Nixon's expressed concern and alleged em-

pathy for Agnew's faux pas on his global vacation and African

fiasco, the

president was getting fed up with his vice president. In true Nixonian style,

he was thinking more and more of

ing

sound

it

like

Nixon recounted I

had

to decide

by choosing a

later,

unload him while mak-

to

benignly, in his memoir:

"One of the

first

things

about the 1972 campaign was whether to change the ticket

new running

Agnew had president. He felt,

mate. By the middle of 1971 Ted

become increasingly disenchanted with as

how

what Agnew himself wanted.

his role as vice

does almost every vice president to some degree, that the White House

staff did not treat

him with proper

major substantive

responsibilities.

become an and

articulate

issues. In this role

by his partisan also

and

had

critics.

effective

But

.

.

that

During the

spokesman

I

had not given him

first

term

Agnew had

for conservative positions

as

I

began preparing

as

for the 1972 election,

I

to look ahead to 1976." his

thoughts about the

cal affections. "I believed that

who

"He had to lead.

.

and

he was wrongly underrated by the press as well

Nixon then confessed party

respect,

clearly

I

'fire in

object of his politi-

John Connally was the only

had the potential

the necessary

new

man

to be a great president,"

the belly,' the energy to win,

in either

he wrote.

and the vision

even talked with Haldeman about the possibility of Agnew's

207

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

208

resigning before the convention and

him, although

knew

I

such a

my

move was

nominating Connally remote

a

nominee

was

that he

was "mixed

reaction

him

with Connally

as the

for vice president at the convention."

Nixon wrote see

The

possibility at best.

Agnew

only serious option would be to replace

to replace

as a

had discussed the matter with Connally but

his

many Republicans might

to negative" because too

"Johnny-come-lately" to the party. Mitchell too, he wrote,

cool to the idea.

Haldeman,

1

had held such

as noted, also

a discussion

with Connally, in which the wily Texan had professed not to have "any ideas offhand" about an

Agnew

replacement.

Ehrlichman, meanwhile, continued board for Nixon's laments about president told

me

his vice president.

Agnew,

.

The

.

would be making

that he

in Africa

trip

on

had

a tour,

was

good

a

"The president was very said.

'Twice

world

it's

Agnew

me

think you ought to drop

told the leader of

Agnew

else.

my

hope that the

happy

.

.

Nixon

him next

vice president

told him,

to

my

understanding,' he

year,"

going

I

replied.

I

Agnew know

to

Now

would

to

offered I

him

want

was

leaving; he

the

Nixon nodded.

"I

'I've

He

I

told

him

do

it

was

obviously was not rest

of us,

." .

.

"I talked to

John Connally

the vice presidency or, if that's not to position

Ehrlichman further wrote: "Nixon that he

tells

I'm thinking about some-

resign soon.

Ehrlichman went on, that I

he

do about him?'"

on well with the president or the

possible, then secretary of state.

Haldeman

said he didn't think the

beyond

what he was expected

for three hours yesterday.

cessor."

'It is

What am

to go!

for Bryce to let

and was not suited

dis-

idea.

agitated.

in the job, did not get

Now

China.

one nation that he

Nixon asked me my opinion of Agnew, and

one

.'

"The

later:

president had recently an-

has proposed that he go to China!

a bad idea for

had Bob arrange

wrote

his historic trip to

agreed with the president's China policy.

forthcoming

He

of Spiro Agnew's gaffes of the previous week during

the vice president's trip to Africa.

nounced

sympathetic sounding

to be a

said

had decided

him

as

my

logical suc-

Connally had told Bob

to resign

from the cabinet

because of the failure of some of the White House staff 'to clear personnel

appointments' with him, and so on. But Nixon talked him out of resigning. 'Connally told me,'

Nixon

said, 'that

Bob [Haldeman]. But I want you Bryce Harlow to figure out how the

or

to

he had no complaints about you

meet often with Connally and

hell

we can

get

Agnew

to resign

Plotting the Big Switch

Ehrlichman then reported

early."'

209

a contrary position

dent: "John Mitchell took another view of

all this.

on the

He saw

vice presi-

Spiro

Agnew

defender of Richard Nixon's right flank, and he saw John

as a loyal

Connally as a turncoat Democrat

who

probably couldn't be confirmed by

the Democrat-controlled Senate. Before long, Mitchell had talked with

Nixon, and soon most of the Connally-for- Agnew

had gone out of

stars

2

the president's eyes." But not quite yet.

Nixon, of course, had plans

for

Erlichman recalled much

ticket if they could be arranged.

the president, Connally,

Nixon remarked

and

Connally that went beyond the 1972

were discussing our

I

that over the years

we had

legislative

created a

Nixon and Connally speculated

as Republicans.

problems.

working

of Congressional conservatives and moderates which had in

Democrats

"One day

later:

it

coalition as

that

many Nixon

had the support of millions of conservative Democratic voters

Looking ahead. ing a

new

.

What could the true

Nixon and Connally began daydreaming about form-

political party

and right of the

tossed out

.

political

they

which might spectrum.

attract voters all across the

They could

middle

realign Congress too.

such a coalition of conservatives and moderates?

call

some names, borrowed from other

meaning of the

"Nixon speculated convention of the

too.

labels 'liberal'

and

that he could get the

political leaders

countries.

We

.

.

.

We

talked about

'conservative.'

new

party started by calling a

of the center and right.

The Nixon

people in each state could be formed into nuclei to create state parties.

Nixon and Connally would be 1972 by the in

new

coalition party

elected president

and could bring

in

and

vice president in

with them a majority

both houses of Congress. Both Nixon and Connally had been in

politics

long enough to realize the near-impossibility of quickly creating such a re-alignment, but they were sufficiently intrigued with the notion that

more thought given to it. ... I learned later that there had been a conversation between Nixon and Connally at which they agreed to wait until after the 1972 election to consider the new party they wanted to have

further.

wonder

But if

as far as they

were concerned,

it

remained

a possibility.

I

1974 might have seen the birth of a coalition party of everyone-

but-the-damn-liberals had Watergate not intervened." 3

According

Nixon

to a neutral observer,

in exile,

Nixon

finally

presidency by running for

it

Robert

Sam Anson,

in his

book about

concluded that Connally could reach the

himself in 1976 as a Republican, after which

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

210

"the Republican Party

Anson wrote, lines.

.

.

"new

a

Though

.

would be abolished four years party

him

his operatives in every state

would come

personally

its

its

place,

shaping and running.

would come the party nucleus; from

guiding principles.

the process of the party's creation, the assembly of

mode and manner

its

British political

Connally, as president, would be the party's titular

head, Nixon planned a major role for himself in

From

In

later."

would be formed along

He

also

its first

of its operation, and, he was certain,

would

direct

convention, the

its

eventual domi-

nation of the American political scene." 4 But the notion that John

Connally would play second fiddle

to

Nixon did not account

dom-

whose presence Nixon was

inant will and personality of the Texan, in

duced

for the

re-

to schoolboy adoration.

Nixon's anxiety over Agnew, meanwhile, was increased even more by

an urgent request for an audience from Chotiner,

who

more depressing news about

delivered

As Haldeman recorded the

VP

same time the

his old political

mentor, Murray

the vice president.

"Apparently Chotiner had been

it:

Agnew had pulled him He had launched into a

was, and

loaded his troubles on him.

in

Spain

at

and un-

aside

tirade

on the

Domestic Council and E, and complained that they didn't give him anything to do, and no responsibility, they don't ask for his advice, and pay

no attention him.

The

to

him. Said he was annoyed by low-level people calling

him and

clerks call

tell

was

really uptight, that creates a

him

get into a huff

him

to

and go off on that

we

do

problem

things.

Murray

for us because

basis, so

said the

we

can't

P wants me

VP

have

to talk to

work out some way of handling it, Also he thinks Mitchell and I should talk to Chotiner. The P asked Murray why he hadn't brought this up with Mitchell to begin with, and Murray said Mitchell and see

Mitchell cut

him

if

off,

can't

and

so I'm supposed to get that straightened out.

the problems never end."

Indeed they to

go see

he

feels

didn't.

Agnew

is

which purported porter level

The

now

very next day

Nixon asked Haldeman, he

"to explore the conspiracy of the

out to get him. to

.

.

.

The VP gave me

a

White House

said,

staff that

document from Vic Gold,

conclude that John Scali [the former wire-service

a foreign-policy aide]

White House

So

5

effort to try to

was the one who was leading

make

the case that the

re-

a high-

VP didn't know

about China, and that his attitude on China and the China question was

going

to result in his

being dropped from the

ticket.

I

tried to

smooth the

Plotting the Big Switch

thing over a into

and

it

about

it

little,

see

later

and didn't succeed very

well, so left

what we could develop on the

and he got

all

cranked up."

21

it

that

actual facts.

would look

I

talked to the

I

I

P

6

later, Haldeman wrote that Ehrlichman had taken a crack down Agnew, who "thinks that in his particular circumstances

Three days at

calming

[presuming

he should be handled differently

his great public popularity],

VPs have been, and he made a plea for the P to cut him in on the decisions. The VP apparently continually came back to the point of China, and raised the question of how you'd feel if the P winked at his national security adviser when the subject of China came up, and then says he can't get into a discussion about that, that we had some things going on, but he couldn't talk about them. He feels that the P should have confided in him." Ehrlichman also told Haldeman that Agnew "really let his hair down, that he said he has no ambitions, that it's way too early to than other

7

decide on a running mate, that press

it's

embarrassing to be confronted by the

on things he knows nothing about." 8

Agnew's continued gripes only reaffirmed Nixon's

desire to replace

with Connally. "As everyone knows," Ehrlichman wrote

Of all

Connally was Nixon's darling boy.

his cabinet

and

later,

staff,

him

"John B.

Nixon saw

only Connally as his potential successor. Nixon was the third president

whom

John Connally had

known

well; years in the service of

Johnson had made Connally an old Washington hand.

From

Lyndon

the stand-

point of experience and temperament, Connally could have been a good president from the

first

day he

sat in the big chair.

inspirational leader, a strong executive

He would

have been an

and an able representative of the

nation in world affairs. ... As secretary of the treasury, however,

Connally was more

difficult to deal with.

[He] expected to deal with no

underlings. If the president had words for him, he wanted to be called di-

not by

rectly,

Bob Haldeman

worked around

all

or me.

that formality

casion

come

.

.

With anyone

else,

would have

it

the

way he wanted

it

done."

9

Timmons, Nixon's congressional liaison chief, later recalled the ocwhen Nixon told him: "Call Connally and tell him I want him to

to the [congressional] leadership meeting, to brief the leadership

some economic

issue."

Timmons

said:

"Connally told me,

appreciate that, and this has nothing to do with you. But

wants

I

and Nixon would have backed me. But

with Connally, our orders were to do Bill

.

me

to

come over

there, he should call me.'

And

if

on

'Bill, I really

the president

he hung up.

I

told

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

212

Nixon. did

He

come

smiled and laughed.

over."

10

The

Agnew

Connally and

guess he did

incident said

it all

him, because Connally

order.

on economic

in

call

about the relative positions of

Nixon pecking

in the

moved

Before Connally

I

as well as fiscal matters, the

administration had a babel of voices on the subject, including heavyweights George Shultz and Arthur Burns. By the big

Texan had put

sion,

a stop to that.

Ehrlichman wrote

When Nixon

Connally told him: "Well,

later,

of 1971, the

complained of the confu-

spokesman, Mr. President, you are going

to be the

summer if

you want

me

have to order those

to

other fellows to shut up.

As of now, no one knows who

Nixon assembled

economists and told them Connally would be

his top

economic

setting the administration's

didn't like

"you can quit."

it

11

to believe.'"

from then on, and

line

if

So

they

Connally's conspicuously dominant role,

coupled with Agnew's widely circulated falling out, produced a News-

wee\ cover with 2 Man?" Through all

of the tough Texan over the caption "Nixon's

a picture

12

No.

Agnew

this,

outwardly acted unfazed.

A week earlier at a

private meeting of officials of the Republican National Committee,

Nixon had urged them: "Support the

vice president.

Do what

help the vice president. He's got a tough job and he's doing

been attacked and maligned unfairly."

new economic

nounced

his

on hand

as the president briefed state

And

it

the day after

officials

to

well. He's

Nixon an-

Agnew was

policy with Connally in charge,

department

you can

on

its

diplo-

matic aspects. Without warning, he suddenly grabbed Agnew's arm and raised

it

Asked

a

few days

ried that he said:

"Not

me

and

own

with his

a

over his head.

on

later

13

a television talk

would be replaced on the 1972 bit.

.

.

.

There

in the sense that

ticket by Connally,

to

happen before

I

no competition between Secretary Connally

we

are trying to elbow each other for the vice

party. ...

I

I

think

many

would become concerned about the

a person of the other party receiving the

my

Agnew

is

presidential nomination in 1972. Realistically,

have

show whether he was wor-

don't believe that

date for vice president he

if

nomination

a

would

possibility

of

for vice president in

Secretary Connally

would remain

things

became

Democrat." As

for

a candi-

running

himself for reelection, he said Nixon "must select the most potent and

powerful vice president that he can find," and he didn't expect him to decide before the start of the election year, so "until he decides

it

would be

Plotting the Big Switch

fruitless for

me

to

make any

decision."

he was giving up on keeping the In the Oval Office, however,

somehow

getting

Agnew

14

213

That didn't sound, though,

Nixon continued

to play

with the idea of

out of the vice presidency and the line of presi-

dential succession. In mid-September, he demonstrated in his

with his inner

circle

musings

not only his low regard of Agnew as presidential

minimal regard

terial

but also his

the recent embarrassing rejections of

two Nixon nominees

for the

Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold

the South,

Carswell, the president was shopping around for a replacement

Why

could be confirmed. the

ma-

key government position.

for another

With

Supreme Court from

like

job.

not ask

Agnew

to resign

—and

who

take a seat on

Supreme Court! Fearing the country would be in poor hands with Agnew, he would simply shift him over to

potential of a President

where he would have

highest court in the land, tion's

bedrock of laws for the

a critical say

the

the

on the na-

of his lifetime.

rest

Haldeman and Ehrlichman captured by the system, Ehrlichman broaches the subject: "On my

In a conversation with

White House taping list

there's

two names

firmable. That's

that appeal to

strong question in

my

mind. But

Nixon: "Agnew once

Haldeman: "God, blockbusters. They'll

(He

told

that

me

all say,

I

don't know.

It's

a

a hell of an intriguing possibility."

he wanted to be on the Court."

would

really rip things up.

Talk about your

'What's the shoe Nixon's gonna drop next?'"

a

damned good

Ehrlichman: "He would be He'd be

Nixon: "I'm sure



good judge.

sure he wants

it

now,

—you think he wants

Haldeman: "No. think

a

judge."

or does he

.

.

.

Well maybe, or

want

to get out

and

it,

the

movie

either."

to stay vice president?"

he's

wiped out

[as vice president].

fight the battle?"

Nixon: "You know, you know, he loves prised by

think he'd do an excellent

I

articulate, he'd be highly principled."

Haldeman: "I'm not

I

it's

...

laughs).

Nixon: "He'd be

job.

me, one of them probably not con-

Weinberger and Spiro T. Agnew.

this social stuff.

.

.

I'm so sur-

star business.

Haldeman: "And he likes the movie stars. ." Nixon: "He could do that, though, from the court." Ehrlichman: "A justice can lead the social life. He's got .

thing."

.

.

a

good

social

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

214

Haldeman: "He's got

the

all

summer

do

to

it.

He

can go to California

and spend the summer."

Ehrlichman: "Oh,

Haldeman: "Two

May

sure,

or three

Newport."

Ehrlichman: "You know Nixon: "Wouldn't

it

Ehrlichman: "Sure in a lifeboat

to October."

months

would. You'd be accused of putting him adrift

it

and using the Court

now

or three at

lead to a violent debate?"

Ehrlichman: "And there is

Palm Springs and two

— ."

as a shelf.

Nixon: "He's gotta do something

time, he

in

are

.

.

else."

enormous negatives

to

it.

At the same

enjoying a sort of a climate of acceptance that

is

probably

temporary before the storm."

Nixon: "And then

they'll

Ehrlichman: "And could never pull this portunity to do you

Of course,

the Senate

would have

a

golden op-

by refusing to confirm your vice president."

Nixon: "Yeah. Oh, Christ, chance."

time he'd get so cut up that probably he

at that

off.

in,

be after us."

We

be awful.

it'd

couldn't give

them

that

15

They moved on to talk briefly about Weinberger, without result. A day later, the matter came up again, this time with only Agnew mentioned and his ally Colson also present. Nixon began with a discussion of handling Agnew, about his troubles with American youth, and what might be done about them, without mentioning the previous day's talk of the

Supreme Court. Colson did

his best to shore

up

his boss's flagging

views

of the vice president.

Nixon: "You always have the constant problem, him, praise him. Then

he'll

do

it.

He

will not

do

praise him, praise

is

it

unless he thinks

it's

helping him. Naturally, he wants to help us, too. He's very, very sensitive to praise. He's also very sensitive if

he thinks

he's doing, so

you've got to [reassure him].

We've talked

a

Agnew

little

about

that the best

that.

way

.

,

.

he's

not popular with what

The

big question

John [Erlichman],

at this point

is

to

I

is

Agnew. with

just really think

have him go

all

out.

.

.

on

pretty narrow, partisan talk."

Colson [defending Agnew]: "He's very impressed, Mr. his last

two speeches and with the

ernors' conference

|!!|.

.

.

fact that

by a national

he got

a lot

President, with

of praise

call for unity.

.

.

.

at the

gov-

We've written

Plotting the Big Switch

Buchanan

this stuff,

has, in

which he

calls for

he says no more of this petty bickering.

Nixon: "The thing with rhetoric.

Agnew

.

.

It

should be more in sorrow than in

anger, and no, no, no sort of Buchananisms, you

mean, cruel

The

behind you. "I

I

"I

standing in the polls relative to

would think he would

And

it

doesn't

don't think

in

show increased

think Agnew's constituency

Ehrlichman: way.

terribly

which "Agnew does not come out

cites a poll in

nearly as strongly as you

and

own

conversation turns to Nixon's

Nixon:

know, no, no

things. Stay the hell off of that."

Agnew's. Haldeman

stantially

same time

unity but at the

."

that he's just got to avoid any rash

is

His tone should be the same.

215

is

Alabama. He's substrength."

extremely narrow.

." .

.

could be solved going in the regular

it

think you'd have to try something fairly radical to try and solve

see if

it

it

works."

Nixon: "What do you mean by that?"

Ehlrichman: "Well, element.

Make

Colson:

I

a college

"It'd

mean

a

campus

grandstand play for the youth and that

tour.

." .

.

be a hell of a long gamble."

Ehrlichman:

"It's

a gamble,

very

much

that

you haven't got much

in the

a

it's

way of savings.

gamble, but you're not playing with

... In the sense that

My

your base

is

him

so

low

go

in

Colson: "Better than being a disc jockey. Remember, he was going

to

residence on

to lose.

campus and have

Nixon: "Rap

.

.

.

far-out idea

and

colloquies

for

is,

to

so forth."

sessions."

Ehrlichman: "Yeah." Colson:

"It'd

Haldeman:

be interesting."

"It's a

long shot."

do that?" Nixon:

"Who was going to make him

a disc jockey?"

Ehrlichman: "Remember, he was going

to

go on and do someone's

newscast for a week while he was on vacation, or some radio commentator or

something."

Nixon: "Oh, Paul Harvey."

Haldeman: "Was it Paul Harvey?" Ehrlichman: "Well, that is not exactly Nixon: "But good

feeling.

I

think

Agnew

is

Don't you think so?"

now

a disc jockey.

." .

.

the beneficiary of.

.

.

an aura of

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

2l6

Ehrlichman: "Yeah. Right now

it's,

uh, he's in very fat with the

governors."

Nixon: "Nobody's kicking him around Colson: "No,

he's

come back

particularly."

in the last

months. He's made, the low

point was after the trip [to Africa]."

Ehrlichman: "[He's he's

going

to be a

of opportunity,

a] target

major victim of

this

just

I

have a feeling that

primary campaign, when things

start to heat up."

As

the group continues to

vice president,

Nixon

muse over what

to

finally introduces the idea

do with, and about, the

again of making

him one

of the nation's nine judicial wise men."Agnew's a red-hot lawyer," he says.

ago,

"One of was

to be

his great desires that

on the Court.

Ehrlichman:

I

say

he expressed, oh, a year or two years

why

not put

him on

the Court?"

confirmation hearing, wouldn't it?"

"It'd require a

Nixon: "What would happen?" Colson: "What would happen?

It

would

[go]

through

like greased

lightning

Nixon: "Agnew?" Colson:

"

—through

the Senate."

Nixon: "You think so?" Colson: "Oh, Absolutely."

Nixon and Haldeman: "Why?" Colson: "He'd be confirmed Senate would turn

down

Supreme Court.

I

don't think the

the vice president."

Haldeman: "Oh, God. Look they'd have to point out

to the

at

who

how stupid

the Senate

is,

and the opportunity

Richard Nixon was

to accept this clod

as his vice president."

Colson: "Make themselves look very bad

in the process."

Haldeman: "Why? He'd look great. Most of the country doesn't like Agnew." Colson: "How would you argue that he wouldn't have the qualifications to

sit

on the court?"

Haldeman: "Never Nixon: "Oh,

practiced law."

yes."

Ehrlichman: "Oh, yeah." Colson: "Not only that



Haldeman: "Never been on

the bench."

Plotting the Big Switch

217

Colson: "He's been vice president of the United

Nixon: "As

A

lawyer.

a

matter of fact,

that's his

strong

suit.

among

labor lawyer as a matter of fact,

States."

He was a damn good

other things."

Ehrlichman: "[Senator James] Eastland would be, of course, as very courtly and very generous with him, but you have [Democrats Birch]

who

Bayh, you have who, [Walter] Mondale, and you have,

Kennedy's on Judiciary.

my

Colson: "But

had reasons

And

it

.

.

point

that with

is

Haynsworth and Carswell, they

With Agnew,

for their attack.

would look

were trying

like they

it

it

would simply be [engaging

Nixon dropped

In the end,

solely political.

his

name

mean

I

up, anyone

who

in] crass politics."

up. In closing off the discussion, he

stir

argued that while he shared Agnew's

hostility

president needed to learn a lesson from to suggest that getting

Agnew

toward the

press, the vice

him about dealing with

past the Senate

He

it.

Democrats would

be too difficult "mainly because they have this alliance with the press.

I'm a

little

ference.

I

faster

mean

on

its

my

bastards.

.

I

[took

.

make any difThe trouble is, if

him

God-damned good.

that he mustn't look as if he enjoys righting

disliking them, because of their philosphy. But

and take that .

.

You know, God, how I handle the bastards. I know they're all I dislike them much more than Agnew could [have] ever

dreamed of

.

to

.

than Agnew, but that doesn't

not that he's so

you can only get across the press.

feet

he

if

the idea, in part apparently because of con-

cern over the fuss the press would

seemed

would be

embarrass you.

to

wanted the appointment, and the president sent

would oppose

else? [Ted]

."

it]

bullshit at

any time and nobody ever knows

for eight years as vice president

four years in the Senate

I

never

let

and two years

I

stand here

it.

Correct?

in the

House,

them know. The only time

I

ever

kicked 'em was after the governor's [campaign in California in 1962].

And

I'm gonna kick 'em again some day.

Colson [now massaging Nixon]: President.

much

I

was on the Hill

different than

in those

." .

.

remember in days. You handled "I

Agnew. Agnew's has major

the

fifties,

Mr.

the antagonism

confrontations.

.

.

.

He's

extreme the way he handles the reporters. You didn't. You were very

way you [dealt with them]." Colson may have disagreed with Nixon on Agnew, but he was politician enough to know how to pull the president's strings on which of them had the right approach in dealing with the common enemy of the press.

clever in the

16

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

2l8

Camp David

At

soon

Nixon suddenly appeared

after,

Haldeman

of heart about Agnew's immediate future.

again.

dence

.

.

in

on the

.

Instead of dodging

it.

.

it

.

would be good

Agnew

me

situation

Agnew and say that if Agnew so desires, he intends to keep him He recalled the damage that was done to Eisenhower in '56

pounded on

The

it.

view

P's

raised hell with the

It

is

Agnew

that

is

and the only way we could check

it,

heat process, but he

P out of the

of backing

black

him

later,

Notably, in saying

be that

is

this,

Nixon

told

he intends to keep him on the

him

can't

is

to

run a tandem

trial

it

also,

it's

a

sure to arise.

totally

good way

to get

The advantages

mutes the press on the

Haldeman

"indicate his confidence" in his vice president

tends to drop

we

rug out from under the extreme right." 17

pulls the

it

this

friends

as these people

a liability, although

and he thinks

VP question, which

Agnew now would

question and

Nixon

thinks he should indicate his support, whether or

still

not he intends to drop

sires,

told

to indicate his confi-

and the conservatives, made Eisenhower look bad,

the

"He

ticket.

by his hesitation on keeping Nixon.

prove

have a change

wrote:

about the

to talk to the attorney general [Mitchell]

to

Nixon

later."

it all

and that

"if

Agnew

so de-

adding "whether or not he

ticket,"

laid

only that he ought to

move

out as a tactical

in-

to take the

heat off himself from pressure groups for the time being, rather than definitely

Agnew and

deciding on

Two

days

later,

that "both of

publicly saying so.

Nixon spoke

them agree

Connally, but that

we

to Mitchell

that the only possible

can't

do that

if

he doesn't switch parties.

Mitchell, particularly, doesn't believe Connally

way. Mitchell

would be blow

feels

it

to absorb.

as a surprise.

We should instead program a scenario leading to his deci-

Harlow

a decision as to

plete

felt

Then go

feels that the

whether or not

to

very strongly that the

get his views

and then

They do

for the

so that we're ready for

open mind. Not decide

volved.

would take the job any-

we need Agnew as our handle to the right, and it move him now. A resignation would be too big a

up ahead of time

Harlow]

And

a mistake to

sion at the convention not to run.

ing

Haldeman replacement would be

himself and told

start

feel that

it,

it,

Connally move, build-

rathern than

dumping

it

VP is in complete limbo himself about run again. Both of them [Mitchell and

P should

talk

but just discuss

with the it.

The

VP with

idea

a

com-

would be

to

building towards a decision with him in-

we should

decide soon, however."

18

Plotting the Big Switch

Ehrlichman wrote

later that

Agnew

nating Vice President

"Nixon was toying with the idea of nomi-

to the Court.

He

be appointed vice president.

found

would attack me by

.

so that

John Connally could

Agnew

thing intriguing,' he

.

'the

me. 'The Senate would clobber him,'

told

219

said.

I

and then

rejecting him,

"Nixon nodded. 'They

Agnew would

with a Senate rejection he becomes used goods,' Nixon

more was

said about

Agnew." Ehrlichman added

Buchanan observed

later:

"By then, Nixon

Nothing

said.

Agnew had

later that

persuaded Attorney General Mitchell to intervene on

be useless;

his behalf.

19

realized, 'Look, if

you

tear

this ticket up, you're gonna antagonize and alienate the whole conservative

movement,

for

dous following

whom Agnew in

was a tremendous

He was

the

been a statement that you had secondly, you it

made

a

guy who carried the ban-

ner of the Republican Party. If you had dropped him,

you do that when

a tremen-

Middle America, he was the white knight, and he had

tremendous independent following.

And

He had

hero.'

first, it

him on

a mistake putting

would have damaged your own

would have

base,

the ticket.

and why would

looked like you were playing with a pat hand?" 20

Whatever happened, Nixon was not quite ready

make

to

his vice pres-

ident "used goods," not as long as he continued to be an effective batter-

ing

ram

against his critics on the hustings.

Democratic presidential nominee

still

With

the identity of the 1972

undetermined,

Agnew was

patched to attack four of the most prominent prospects

Muskie, Humphrey, and McGovern

—on grounds of

"reckless

and ap-

Vietnam War

palling" talk about cutting defense spending with the

dis-

— Kennedy, still

going on.

He had

harsh words too for fellow-Republican Representative Pete

McCloskey, a Korean ous

critics

Nixon

Agnew

War

veteran and one of their party's most vocifer-

of the Vietnam policy,

in the

said

New

who had announced

Hampshire primary. Mocking

McCloskey

"is in

money

such a

he would challenge

his shoestring effort,

bind, he's been forced to auc-

tion off his personal art collection. Yesterday he sold his favorite paint-

ing

— 'Benedict

Arnold Crossing the Delaware.'"

rhetoric as "the politics of positive division"

hydrophobic

hostility"

and

He

said he

of a "pompous, unelected liberal

Nearly every day now, however, a vice president could be

an

new reminder

irritant, or a distraction

defended

welcomed

elite."

his

"the

21

occurred of how the

on the most

trivial

of

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

22()

One night over the long Thanksgiving weekend at Palm Springs, Haldeman got a phone call from Agnew at 11 o'clock, telling him about a dispute between his friends Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope matters.

over which of them was to ride with Nixon in the golf cart for their

Hope had been

the next day.

P wanted Sinatra

the

Haldeman recorded in his diary, "that with him and that this apparently had

told,

to ride

Hope's nose out of joint [no pun apparently intended]. In any event, the

VP

dled

that

had nothing

for the

it all

would do

I

in the

Haldeman

P and

to

do with

setting

how

Sinatra-Hope

midnight intervention.

Agnew

up. Rose

I

told

Woods had han-

which he agreed he

middle of the night."

didn't indicate later

"sticky thing" that the

care

it

that he should call Rose,

had

it

note that on the flight back to Washington

The

game

all

turned out, except to

Nixon complained about

the

flap caused in spite of Agnew's post-

22

and feeding of Frank Sinatra was of particular concern

to

because the singer was strongly in his corner in

at this juncture,

Agnew had

the matter of his place on the 1972 Republican ticket.

ously cultivated Sinatra on trips to

Palm

fastidi-

Springs, on one occasion even

taking Sinatra's elderly mother to witness a space shot.

The

stroking

Nixon— Agnew campaign fund. According to Agnew aide John Damgard, when speculation grew in 1971 that the vice president might be dropped from the worked,

in that Sinatra

ticket, Sinatra

became

passed the

him

if that

tives

headed by William

12

word

a

major contributor

that there

would be no more money from

happened. Also, a group of prominent

warned Nixon

F.

to the

New

York conserva-

Buckley and calling themselves the Manhattan

that heavy contributions

Agnew were jettisoned. When Agnew dutifully

from them would be denied

if

23

Conference

in

San Juan, Puerto Rico, he made

Connally replacing him.

He

he had picked up his phone that said:

attended the annual National Governors'

"Your

light

of all the talk about

told his old colleagues that a in his office

and heard

four years are up. Please signal

few days

a recorded

when

earlier

message

through." Later, at

another Republican governors' meeting, in French Lick, Indiana, he reported that he had just

come from Chicago, where he had

hotel's vice-presidential suite. "Secretary said, "I

stayed in the

Connally was out of town," he

asked about checkout time, and they

said, 'Election Day.'"

24

22

Plotting the Big Switch

Agnew could skin, as

ward

joke about

was the conspicuous admiration Nixon continued

new

his

ner," aide Vic

sometimes

favorite,

Gold

recalled,

vice president sitting there. self-control.

In

but the Connally talk was getting under his

it,

He

in

Agnew's presence. "At

"Nixon would

Agnew had

a state din-

about Connally with the

talk

a remarkable gift of restraint

and

25 never said a word, but he seethed."

he took pains to swear his fealty to Nixon, especially before

all this

conservative crowds that might be wavering.

Young Americans

for

Freedom

for president instead of

point out that

support,

to display to-

if

my

to

them:

efforts as vice president are I,

member

as a

the ultraconservative

mock convention nominated Agnew

Nixon, he wrote

only because

it is

at a

When

"I feel

it

reasonable to

indeed deserving of such

of the Nixon administration,

have been working since January, 1969, to help carry out the president's

program

for

Agnew

our nation." 26

continued as well to play goodwill ambassador abroad, attend-

ing a two-thousand-five-hundredth anniversary celebration in Iran and

making

a

long-delayed sentimental journey to Greece, his ancestral

home, before "farting

year's end. Privately,

around there

dial conversation

memo

post-trip trip

was

for a

criticized

him

to

Haldeman

from Rogers and

for

week," but on Agnew's return he had a cor-

of more than an hour with him in the Oval Office.

a solid success

jectives in

Nixon

to

Nixon

reported:

significantly furthered

Greece, Turkey and Iran."

The

"The

27

A

vice president's

our foreign policy ob-

secretary of state, again going

along with Nixon's policy of boosting Agnew's foreign gallivanting as

more than

vacationing, credited

Agnew

in Iran

with taking "advantage

of a major ceremonial event to achieve important substantive gains," 28

and with demonstrating skillfully

"tact

and

finesse of the highest order" in Greece,

parrying the issue of Cyprus in Turkey.

However, Nixon's decision

to

send Connally to attend the inaugura-

Nguyen Van Thieu in Saigon, a customary vice-presionly stimulated more speculation that Nixon was boosting

tion of President

dential task,

Connally's foreign-policy credentials preparatory to replacing

Agnew on

the 1972 ticket.

Other pressures eral

Ripon Society

ever,

was

a poll

in that direction

to

included a

dump Agnew.

call

on Nixon from the

In the vice president's favor,

lib-

how-

of delegates to the 1968 Republican convention; 76.5

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

222

percent favored his retention and 71 percent said unloading

hurt the

chances of winning

ticket's

formed "Americans

Lee Edwards,

a

for

Agnew," and

in 1972.

Some

party conservatives

him came from

a rallying cry for

prominent Washington

him would

publicist with ties to the

Goldwater wing of the GOP: "In an era of ideologicial eunuchs, he stands almost alone as a

man

of principle." 29

Agnew

Further indications that Nixon needed

wing support came with

to shore

the decision of a conservative

up

his right-

Ohio congress-

man, John Ashbrook, to challenge Nixon in the New Hampshire primary. Ashbrook pointedly observed that his opposition was to Nixon,

Agnew. To

not

White House

mollify the right

political adviser

wing and

conservative organization: "Despite

no plan

drop Mr.

to

the South,

from South Carolina,

Agnew from

what you read

Harry Dent, the

finally

wrote

in the press, there

the ticket in 1972."

30

But the vice

dent was a politician with a one-man constituency, and that one

who

not Dent; he was Nixon,

But Nixon

When

made

he

a passing

total

man was

complimentary remark about the

vice president

Chicago, the grateful recipient sent him a handwritten

support of your

final decisions."

my

loyalty

was one promise

Nixon could have done without, and one

that

kled those closest to the president. cate," in referring to the strain

the

same time,

in

Agnew

31

I

That

that ran-

obviously meant "devil's advo-

of independence in him.

an interview in the Wall Steet Journal, the

vice president indicated that private life

of limited financial means.

and

Then he addded: "However,

won't promise not to play the advocate while you are undecided."

Around

presi-

was happy with Agnew.

thank-you note vowing that "you can always depend on

my

is

continued to stop short of that statement.

also continued the subterfuge that he

in a speech in

to a

"Many

him as a man of life want to con-

had some appeal

people at

my

stage

to

sider the welfare of their family," he said. "Despite the very substantial

pay increases recently here

still is

Nor

is

[to

$62,500 salary and $10,000 expenses], the pay

not what you could get in outside

life

for equal responsibility.

the tax structure very helpful; a good part of that pay

band, and

That

it

snaps right back into the Treasury."

sort of thinking, in the end, the

be their best hope of getting rid of out of the game.

He

Nixon

Agnew



is

on

a rubber

52

strategists realized,

that he

might

would take himself

could hardly be fired for letting his side down.

He

Plotting the Big Switch

223

had admirably performed the central task assigned him Nixon's Nixon on the fund-raising and campaign

What had made him

critics.

was

cle

trails in

—of being

castigating his

persona non grata with the Nixon inner

and

his interminable carping

cir-

restlessness over being inadequately

used in policy matters.

But

Agnew

in truth

was not

as indifferent

ticket as

some of

With

knowledge and approval,

his

and private gripes suggested.

his public observations

support for him in a poll in

New

toward remaining on the

associates raised

Hampshire

money

to generate

that reinforced the case for

renomination and reelection. Polling figures contradicted any notion

his

that keeping

Agnew on

the Republican ticket

would be damaging

chances for four more years in power. Just as important from his point of view,

Agnew knew

he was

now

its

own

the most popular Republican in

Not

the nation, rivalled only by Nixon.

to

surprisingly, he

was looking

ahead, to possible or even probable nomination for the presidency in 1976, after

Nixon had

filled

the two-term limit.

most

tory of the vice presidency as the tial

nomination and gateway

Damgard wanted

later reported,

He

the recent his-

Oval Office. Indeed, aide John

to the

was

knew

reliable stepping-stone to presiden-

"Agnew was fond

to be vice president

well

of saying the only reason he

to be lady-in-waiting to be president.

Otherwise the job wasn't challenging." 33

As the new year began, and with

the speculation continuing,

Nixon

agreed to a one-hour television interview with his old journalistic nemesis,

CBS News White House

correspondent

Dan

Rather. Right off, Rather

asked him whether he could say "categorically and unequivocally" that he

wanted Agnew on the

ticket with

would be made the next summer egates. I

But then,

him

at the

again.

obviously will have something to say about

handled been a tion,

stay

his difficult

man

it.

My

at last,

view

is

am

a candidate

that

one should

believe that the vice president has

I

when

a

man

was

is

it,

my

thinking at

or so

it

I

this time."

seemed. For

presidential expressions of frustration

he's at times

has done a good job in a posi-

has been part of a winning team,

on the team. That

That,

he added: "if I

assignments with dignity, with courage;

of controversy, but

when he

said the decision

Republican convention by the del-

startlingly to the audience,

not break up a winning combination.

Nixon

all

believe that he should 34

the behind-the-scenes

and exasperation about Spiro

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

224

Agnew, and Nixon's repeated on the

ticket,

cajoling of John Connally to replace

he apparently had

convinced was

finally

political reality. It

again, under the slogan "Four

surrendered to what he had been

was going

More

him

to be

Nixon and Agnew

Years"; there seemed

expect otherwise as the 1972 campaign began.

little

reason to

Chapter 16

SEPARATION ANXIETY

On the second day of the new year, what seemed to be good news

Agnew came in a report by veteran CBS newsHe told of a supposed falling-out between Nixon

for Vice President

caster Daniel Schorr.

and Connally, which,

Agnew

for

to expect

if

it

could be believed, suggested even more reason

he would remain on the Republican national ticket

for 1972.

Hearing of Schorr's report from Buchanan, Nixon instructed

Haldeman

to call

Connally and invite him

dinner in San Clemente,

to

where the president had been spending the holidays. Connally

told

Haldeman all was well, but as the chief of staff subsequently wrote in his Nixon later confided "that he had a very difficult time with

diary,

Connally

in California.

That the night they had dinner

at the P's house,

Connally told him he had spent his time in Texas going off on a horse, thinking through his future, and he concluded that he had completed

what he had come here

[to

Washington]

for,

the job that

was needed, and

he would be, therefore, leaving at the end of January. This he had talked over with Nellie [Connally's wife] and there was a firm decision.

had

to

go

to

work on him,

apparently, to

make

in the best interests at this time. ... P's feeling

him go now,

is

we

that

is,

in a sense, a hostage to

him.

really

was not

can't afford to let

that we've got to pay the price that's necessary to

so he [Nixon] really If that

the point that this

P

keep him,

."' .

.

indeed was the case, Connally remained the driving force in the

Nixon cabinet and

in the president's heart.

And who knew what

price

22 5

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

226

Connally might exact to stay

and

at Treasury,

close to

Nixon,

who seemed

more dependent on him than ever? Later in January, with Connally at home with the fiu, Nixon hovered over him like a mother hen. According to Haldeman in his diary, "P wants to be sure that we don't let the White House staff throw their weight on him. getting him to Camp David and all the other perks, have him use the Eagle [the small presidential plane] .

any time he goes.

We

should take the

.

initiative

during

this

time to give

him the highest priority over cabinet and staff." Haldeman wrote Nixon had instructed him to tell Mitchell, Kissinger, and Ehrlichman sonally to keep Connally informed for

it,

then the

P won't do

how

cerned about

hard

on everything and

Wants me

it.

to

make

that

per-

"if Connally's not

the point that the P's con-

working. That he knows that every perform-

he's

ance has to be grade A, that he's relied on for so much, so he should have all

the best available

That later,

to

go

told

to Florida

cold and

him

sound

certainly did

Nixon

that the

and we don't want any

all.

P

things bothering him."

like a hostage situation.

Haldeman and

little

"to call Nellie

me

again two days

to

sit

down and

talk to

ble within the

man,

that I'm to see that his path

White House

P

staff."

is

But Haldeman complained

Connally wanted to be bothered or stroked on Nixon's orders. felt,

his

considers

as easy as possi-

ary that "our staff say they can't reach him," an indication of

Ted Agnew may have

like

Connally and say

says, because he's carrying such a burden and the

the indispensible

would

see if Connally

house for a while to recover from

stay at the P's

Also, he wants

and

And

2

in the di-

how

little

3

going into the presidential election year of

much on

1972, that President Nixon, relying so

Connally, was unwisely

wasting a valuable policy resource in cutting his vice president out of key internal decisions. This

was

especially so,

Agnew

could

tell

himself, re-

garding domestic matters in which he had experience as a former governor.

But Nixon, and

his palace

guard of Haldeman and Erlichman, saw

the vice president's value only as an effective messenger, not as a conceptualizer.

And

with reelection

the only role they

wanted played by the

one that Nixon himself had in 1956.

Agnew tial

As Nixon had been to be their attack

nominee.

now at the filled

top of the administration agenda, vice president

was the

traditional

in Eisenhower's bid for a second term

against Adlai Stevenson then, they

wanted

dog against the eventual Democratic presiden-

Separation Anxiety

Agnew

Nevertheless,

227

continued to seek a larger policy voice. In early

wake of the leaked disclosure of the Pentagon Papers on conduct of the Vietnam War, he asked for and got a rare meeting

January, in the the

with Nixon. In the Oval Office, he offered an idea that, in an effort to bolster

Nixon's power to classify government documents without prior court

Agnew

authorization, could have been taken as rekindling the

feud with

the press.

The vice president in the taped conversation calls for "tightening it up, to make certain that only those directly authorized by the president could make a document secret," and that it would not be "a matter for the courts to decide whether or not the president properly classified the docu-

ment

as secret.

lish,"

Agnew

.

.

The

.

explains,

document and

that

it

only thing the government would have to estab-

"was that the president properly

was improperly used by the

stipulated that the content of any such

revealed.

Agnew

tells

Nixon

classified the

violator." It

would be

document would never have

to be

that "one piece of information revealed by

Jack Anderson, seemingly innocuous to ... 99 percent of the population,

might provide

to a foreign intelligence agent that

blow the cover of an important operative or

one piece of a puzzle

to

to reveal a plan that we're

trying to conceal."

Nixon takes

the high road with

Agnew,

lecturing

him

that while he

likes the idea, "I don't like to classify things for political purposes. see, classification

could be used for political security of the administration

or for the national security of this country.

former

is

totally indefensible."

do

perfectly willing to

so, just

frankly

latter

they will take.

"I don't

is

legitimate, the

[to]

.

.

pick a fight

want you, although you're

be the guy that's kicking the ass

"They should have

off the press," he says, adding: is

The

He also says he doesn't want to

with the press on the sensitive matter.

What I meant

You

their ass kicked off.

anything that touches them as being

at-

tacked by Agnew."

Nixon suggests

that he talk to

William Rehnquist, Justice

Department

who had

official,

newly

prosecuting the press." 4

it

Supreme Court

Justice

been considering the same matter

as a

and with White House counsel John Dean

and Ehrlichman before attempting to say "you're exploring

installed

to

move forward

on your own.

.

.

We

—and

to

make

sure

can't be in the business of

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

228

Agnew had

the satisfaction of having been heard out on his idea, but

nothing came of

it.

After three years in the vice presidency, he had no

greater policy role than

As

when he

first

took the job.

the election year began, the consensus remained that the

through the primary election process would

settle

Democrats

on Senator Ed Muskie

of Maine. His level-headed performance as Hubert Humphrey's running

mate

in 1968,

and

his

homey

1970 election-eve television talk to the na-

by the news media with the televised fiasco

tion, contrasted so favorably

of Nixon's full-throated assault on "the rock throwers and the obscenity shouters" in Phoenix, seemed to point to Muskie as the choice. Polls of the

time reflected that sentiment, establishing the senator from Maine as the

Democratic front-runner.

Among activists

within his party, however,

who would

have an inordi-

nate influence in the process of selecting convention delegates mainly in state primaries,

making up

his

mind and

articulating his position

this time, opposition to the

internal debate,

war had become

and although Muskie

drawing American Another

He was having difficulty

Muskie had one major problem.

likely

troops, he often

on the Vietnam War. By

a centerpiece of the party's

in 1971

had talked about with-

sounded an uncertain trumpet.

Democratic candidate

nomination, Senator

for the 1972

George McGovern of South Dakota, who had served

as a sort of rallying

point in 1968 for the forces of the slain Senator Robert party's disastrous

Chicago convention, had by now emerged

Democrats' most forceful

critic

a serious challenger to Muskie. political strategists

As

had focused

early as April of 1970,

Haldeman, nerabilities,

Kennedy

to look into

at the

as the

of the war. But he was not yet regarded as

So

it

was Muskie on

as their likely

whom Nixon and

his

opponent.

Nixon had been pushing

Muskie's record and personal

his chief operative,

life

for political vul-

along with those of Ted Kennedy and other possible 1972

Democratic candidates. Haldeman wrote "wants to step up

political attack. Investigators

plus [Senators Birch]

Haldeman

two Ehrlichman agents, former tive agencies."

then that Nixon

on Kennedy and Muskie

Bayh and [William] Proxmire. Also get dope on

the key senatorial candidates."

investigations that

in his diary

New

all

identified the investigators as

York policemen, "used

to

handle

were outside the normal scope of the federal investiga-

The men he named,

later received notoriety in the

Jack Caulfield and

Watergate

affair.

5

Tony Ulasewicz,

229

Separation Anxiety

In September 1970,

cussions as

P

Haldeman had

tries to get

written: "Big day for political dis-

and some action underway before we

the line set

leave |on a foreign trip]. Mainly concerned with not letting Democrats, especially presidential candidates like

get

away with

and

into

press

is

wants

not nailing them."

me

to

attempt to

their obvious present

middle of road. He's 6

right,

And

launch plan for

parenthetically:

move away from

etc.

the

left

and

it

November, Haldeman wrote: "P

in

mailings supporting Muskie to

The

in South."

"An example of

HHH,

our people are letting them do

'lib'

Democratic leaders and editors

Ted Kennedy, Muskie,

all

diaries helpfully explained

the 'dirty tricks'concept



in this case,

mailings supporting Muskie that would appear to be from a strong liberal source and thus offensive to the conservative South."

7

wake of Nixon's ordered incursion into Laos amid Democratic criticism, Haldeman wrote: "The P is very anxious that we not let the Democratic candidates look good on this issue. Muskie has moved out in opposition and he [Nixon] wants to be sure we keep him out on that limb and push hard to make an asset out of this." In a clear indication that the Nixon White House had Muskie in its sights In February of 1971, in the

8

early, a later

February diary entry told of "long chats with E.

with Colson on [how] his Project Muskie

on ways

to carry that further ahead."

By mid-January of likely fall

opponent.

Nixon

as

clearly

was focusing on Muskie

He

said he

might want

so." It

press

"We

would be

better,

I

don't

"he's got

nothing to gain

in fighting the

anymore, but he should brutally attack Muskie, leaving Hubert and

Agnew

for

now, since Muskie's way out

in front."

10

apparently was willing, but continued to concern himself with

non-campaign matters. In early February, he

called

Haldeman complain-

ing about the Legal Services branch of the anti-poverty

from LBJ. "He's

services people at

said

to consider the

need some action on the bomb-Muskie crew,

Agnew," he wrote,

Teddy alone

ited

man

know why in the Haldeman wrote, to turn

appearance with Muskie;

especially

as his

of "Muskie's image of a strong, thoughtful

pure cosmetics.

on him.

ideas

president's concern about a

world he would do loose

and then

coming along and some

possibility of a joint

Agnew

.

9

Haldeman wrote of the

poll that raised a question

versus

Nixon

1972,

is

.

sort of

OEO

engaged with

[Office of

were attempting "to drive

a

a

program inher-

running brawl with the

legal

Economic Opportunity]" who Agnew

wedge between him and

the

P.

.

.

.

It's

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

23 0

obvious to him that the entire establishment in Washington, D.C., has

ground "the

bad

to a halt because

of the wild-eyed kids

in legal services,"

and that

much disgusted with all this but doesn't realize how Haldeman tried to slough Agnew off on Ehrlichman, but he

P, too, is 11

it is."

pretty

work with anyone but Nixon's chief aide. "I had a meeting with the VP to work out campaign relationships," Haldeman wrote. "He says he trusts only me at the White House and wants to deal directly with refused to

me on

any orders he gets from the

P."

While Agnew was under Nixon's go

Muskie

after

the

Maine senator

A

as

produce

of

covertly

midsummer

political

him

directive to stick to

publicly, others in the

and

for

campaigning and

campaign operation were targeting

As

indirectly.

Our

our operation.

problems for him, right now,

"Senator Muskie

(b) to



Agnew

March,

upon

its

the

head.

silly

Nixon

matter of

who would go

want

didn't

to,

to the

neither did Rogers,

once again was balking.

Nixon, captured on

Haldeman:

"I

tape, asks

makes

you don't, that the

which

is

young

reporters, the libs

that the Gridiron

the

shouldn't go.

strongly

I

at the

Haldeman:

argument you should

is

and

being kicked around by the

all

to

me. The women's

You know

"Still

know

left

wing, the

that."

the

time was an all-male club]. "I don't

go, or at the very

vice president must, for a different reason,

Nixon: "Well, that appeals Gridiron

Haldeman: "Agnew won't go?"

don't know. Dick Wilson [of the Cowles Newspapers,

the Gridiron president]

Nixon:

visit

13

again, in

least if

to be

wounds that would not only reduce his chances for but damage him as a candidate, should he be nominated."

Gridiron dinner raised

and

now

political

nomination

Once

tar-

hopefully help de-

in

him some

is

specific goals are (a) to

one or more of the [1972J primaries (Florida looks the best early bet, California, the best later), and (c) finally, to feat

sum-

early as the previous

memo that said:

mer, Pat Buchanan had written a get

12

women's .

.

.

lib feels very,

lib,

very

don't you? |The

Well, what about

Agnew?"

yet."

working on that?"

Haldeman: "Dick Wilson thinks

if

you don't go you should be out

of

you were

in

town, and the vice president should go. In other words,

if

Separation Anxiety

town and you

them by not going,

just gratuitously insulted

would be harmful

that he feels

who are not the target." Haldeman that "of all of the

to the old line of the press corps

Nixon, weighing what he will do, Gridiron, about half of them

tells

are decent

Haldeman wrote Wanting to be sure

Later that day, question today.

2 3!

.

[but] they

.

.

in his diary:

"P got into the Gridiron

Agnew

that

always shit on me." 14

is

do

set to

so that he

it,

doesn't have to go. Also, he had told Bebe [Rebozo, Nixon's closest friend]

not to go, and

now

me

he thinks he should go, and told

him, be-

to call

P thinks he ought to be there for it."" Haldeman "he would go if the VP [stuck in

cause they're going to rib Bebe and

The

next day,

Nixon

told

California at a state Republican Assembly meeting] couldn't go, but he

heard that [muckraking columnist] Jack Anderson was going to be there,

and

if

16 he were, the P definitely wouldn't go."

When Nixon

next said he would go to the dinner only and not attend

the mix-and-mingle beforehand, his wife act.

Haldeman recounted

that "both hit

and daughter

him on

Julie got into the

the fact that he should

him to do [because women were excluded from Gridiron membership). Nixon now decided he "should not go, would be a very bad thing for

VP to do

try to get the

.

.

and that

we're not represented.

icals if

him

told

it.

in writing

neither of

who

really thinks the

.

it."

the

VP

body

I 17

else."

wrote,

go.

.

.

and

said "he felt the

P should, but

discussed

Nixon "made that's it

where

it

this year,

VP

it

call

Secretary of

should definitely not go, and he

neither of

if

ought

them

goes, then either

to be Connally." In the end,

the decision he won't go, he won't

it

was

P had

and he argued that

So Nixon had Haldeman

Connally or Rogers should, and

Haldeman

hands of the rad-

Tried that on the VP, [but] the

he didn't have to do

them should do

State Rogers,

.

.

we'll play into the

left. It

make

was interesting how every-

with copped out and passed the buck to someone

Such were the heavy concerns that weighed on the leader of the

free world.

Connally, meanwhile, was getting

wrote

He is

in

fed

up

at Treasury.

mid-April that "he's obviously determined that

admitted that a

his fault

fects

more

lot

do

and the way he works.

so."

he's got to go.

of the problem he has with the White House staff

He

wants

to control everything that af-

him, he will not allow staff people whose judgment

his to

Haldeman

Rather than "blow up and walk out mad," he

isn't as

said,

good

as

he would

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS leave quietly

and perhaps head up

after the primaries.

a

Democrats-for-Nixon organization

18

Connally's decision revived Nixon's discussion with

Haldeman and

Ehrlichman "on the restructuring of the two-party system," Haldeman wrote, "the feeling being that the

move

to build a

new

party, the

P and Connally,

after the election, could

Independent Conservative Party, or some-

thing of that sort, that would bring in a coalition of southern Democrats

and other conservative Democrats, along with the middle-road

Problem would be

vative Republicans.

to

work

it

out so that

to conser-

we

included

Rockefeller and Reagan on the Republican spectrum, and picked up as

many

"By structuring a

we could. right, we could develop

of the Democrats as

new name. Get

the realignment,

it

new

majority party.

and make

a truly historic

change

in the entire

This intrigues the P and Connally, and

way Connally has any

it's

clearly

with the two of them being the strong

would emerge

as the candidate for the

would strongly back him

In late May, year,

Nixon got more

first

obviously

in that."

new

men and party in

nomi-

we formed doing

'76,

it,

a

he

and the P

19

seven months before the start of the presidential election specific in

Haldeman: "The P got the

American

future, since he's never going to be

nated by the Democratic Party, and by Republican Party. If coalition,

Under

control of the Congress without an election, simply by

political structure.

the only

a

thing this morning.

the attack on Julie's

what he wanted done,

as

recorded by

into a discussion of the general political situation

new

He wanted

to track

down whoever had done

teaching job to see whether there was a partisan

him to think that we should put permanent tails and coverage on Teddy and Muskie and Hubert on all the personal stuff to cover the kinds of things that they hit us on in '62 [when Nixon lost his source to

it.

That

led

bid for governor of California]; personal finances, family and so forth."

Notably, there was no mention or evidence of the hand of

was the out-front

assailant, in

20

Agnew, who

any of this.

Dwight Chapin, a young former Haldeman business associate now working as Nixon's personal aide, recalling political pranks at the University of Southern California, contacted a fellow prankster named Donald

Segretti.

Together they

set in

motion

a series

of anti-Muskie

Separation Anxiety

2 33

became part of the Watergate scandal lore. They included late-night phone calls to voters during the New Hampshire primary from a phony "Harlem for Muskie Committee" and the so-called capers that later

"Canuck letter" accusing Muskie of slurring Franco- Americans who made up a significant voting bloc in the New England state. William Loeb, the publisher of the Union Leader, wrote a

NewsweeJ^

Muskie

Muskie, and reprinted

paper on a snowy morning and

to the

Muskie seemed mo-

so vigorously that he lost his temper.

down

and, some wrote,

snow running down

only melted

Manchester

wife Jane in an uncomplimentary light.

husband went

irate

Loeb

mentarily to break tears,

a front-page editorial blasting

article that cast his

an

as

castigated

fiercely conservative

cry.

Others said there were no

his cheeks,

and Muskie himself

denied he had cried. But the upshot was a flood of stories about the candidate's unpresidential loss

the

New

Hampshire primary over McGovern, but

neighboring

his

New England

state that

to Segretti

and

team but

no longer

a serious factor for the

were transferred

to

also to

Colson and Chotiner. With Muskie

Democratic nomination, the

McGovern, but without such notable

paign

up overt

political criticisms

of

tricks," but

Agnew

he was di-

McGovern on

serious challenge on

the

cam-

the Republican side from either

McCloskey or Ashbrook, and with Nixon's statement

Agnew would summer

locked

in.

again be his running mate

so "decided,"

it

if

to

Dan

Rather that

the Republican convention in

appeared that the

Nixon-Agnew team was

Connally had said he didn't want to be vice president and

planned soon to resign All this while,

ing

result.

efforts

trail.

With no

the

not only

later attributed

was never associated with any of these "dirty rected to take

so unimpressively in

he never recovered. 21

Other similar encounters were reported and his

He won

of control, and his fortunes plummeted.

as

Nixon's treasury secretary, which he did in May.

Agnew was

him unreserved support

North Vietnam. At

a

fortifying his standing with

Nixon by

giv-

to take stronger military action against

National Security Council meeting in mid-May, the

mining of Haiphong harbor and the bombing of Hanoi were approach-

—and Connally—took pointed

ing decision point.

Agnew

Laird's opposing

argument

shipped south by

equipment

rail,

and

that

that

it

for the Saigon regime.

most of the arms

would be cheaper

issue

traffic

to beef

with Mel

was being

up

military

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

2 34

Kissinger later wrote: not afford to

let

"Agnew was

we

unequivocal that

South Vietnam collapse;

it

would have

simply could

disastrous inter-

national consequences, especially in the Middle East and around the

Indian Ocean.

We

were 'handcuffing ourselves' by being 'compulsive

talkers'; the president really didn't

have an option." 22 With such com-

ments, the vice president not only demonstrated his continuing commit-

ment

Agnew

presidency

would be

just as ag-

Nixon; he also offered a glimpse of what an

to

might hold gressive as

realm of foreign policy

in the

it

would be

in

that

domestic matters.

May

Shortly afterward, on trip to the

—one

when Agnew returned from another

19,

Far East, he triggered a Nixon explosion

in the

Oval Office by

reporting that in South Vietnam he had been told by U.S. military leaders

of restrictions on bombing North Vietnam. Kissinger, clearly upset, said

had been

the U.S. Air Force

Hanoi

in the

area.

told there

were only two minor

Chiefs of Staff, was waiting at the time in Kissinger's

moned him act,

restrictions

Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, the chairman of the

and, conveying what

Agnew had

warning he might clean house

office.

Moorer the

riot

with his particular

tar-

said, read

in the military,

Joint

Nixon sum-

get Air Force Chief of Staff General John G. Ryan.

Before Moorer comes

care.

I

Nixon,

been given [the reason]

"I've never

[on the

in,

heard on tape, says to Kissinger:

as

why

the air force has dropped the ball

North Vietnam bombing]. God-damn,

want

head of the

want

"I

to tell

named Ryan,

air force

When Moorer appears,

Out! Out!"

Nixon:

that

really got

I

mad.

out today

he's

don't

I

—Out!

he gets an earful.

you something, and

I've said this before

and

I'll

God-damned ass. You know and I You know I've ordered that God-damned air force time and time again. say

it

again,

Ryan

better get off his

.

.

.

.

know and .

.

.

and the

I

know

air force didn't

do

a

in

God-damn

telling the vice president this. I

chief of staff all

Ryan on

.

.

it

.

.

through

.

.

last

three days, not

Because the .

.

Bullshit.

.

little .

.

"Now

bas-

They're

Never have they had the backing they've

know the reason for it, or there's going to up and down the line. Right now. Is that clear?"

want

Moorer: "Yes, Nixon:

.

thing for the

North Vietnam.

were afraid they might not make

got today and

.

they do not have a restriction about [the bombing]

one good God-damn thing tards

.

to

be a

new

sir."

get off your ass. ...

the phone.

I

want you

I

to get

want you

to get that son

[Admiral John] McCain

of a bitch [the

com-

"

Separation Anxiety

mander-in-Chief of Naval Operations the phone."

all

2 35

in the Pacific, or

CINCPAC]

on

23

Agnew, having

ignited the outburst, just listened.

his reservations

about him, apparently

still

The

president, for

took some of his fact-find-

ing missions seriously.

Meanwhile, the Gallup Poll

continued to show

Agnew

The

preference of Republicans to remain as Nixon's running mate. ripple in that consensus

meeting of the

came

in

Iowa when

state party to leave

ing Nixon's reelection.

Senator Jacob

Javits,

to the substance

It

was

a resolution

the clear

only

was offered

at a

Agnew's name off a resolution endors-

rejected. In

New

York,

liberal

Republican

charging that Agnew's "name-calling adds nothing

of the debate," urged that he be replaced on the ticket by

either Rockefeller or Senator

Ed Brooke

of Massachusetts, to no

avail.

4

Shortly before Connally quit the cabinet, he and his wife Nellie hosted the Nixons at a big barbecue party at their Texas ranch, and talk of a

Nixon-Connally

ticket revived in that

atmosphere. But the only result

was the organizing by Connally of Democrats-for-Nixon, raising effort that also helped deliver Texas to

Several weeks

later,

Nixon

a

in the fall.

however, the subject of replacing

Connally cropped up again

major fund-

in a conversation in the

25

Agnew

with

Oval Office, when

John Mitchell told Nixon he had asked the Texan whether he wanted be president

"when he

finally got

around

Connally replied,

to it."

but he always liked to be

Mitchell reported, that "he wasn't seeking

it,

where the power was, but he knew what

hard road

a

president, that you've just got to drop out of sight

But he said very

flatly that in his

it

was

opinion that he would not want to be

not the vice presidency. That's what he.

it,

wanted

it,

and that

.

.

He

doesn't

and he did say he

but he didn't deny the fact that he would like to be president,

he's



Nixon [breaking

in]:

"a realist,

that of the various people

and has enough ego

on the American

Mitchell:

"We

"It's

discussed that thought.

true."

" .

to serve, to realize

political scene, he's

the best qualified."

Nixon:

to get to be

and then come back.

the vice president for four years under any circumstances.

want

to

.

probably

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

236

Mitchell: "And Nixon: "And

it is

man

else, a

best

man,

were

if you

the whole Congress

true."

and

to pick, John, out

of our whole cabinet, out of

governors, considering age and everything

all

of ability and of the right age to be president, Connally

in

is

the

my opinion."

Mitchell:

"I agree,

I

agree with that."

Mitchell went on to tell Nixon that Connally had said "what he would be interested in, and he said that while he wasn't anxious to do it, but the only thing he would ever be interested in was the secretary of So

state's job.

[it

would

be] a clear indication that

your second term even

line after

starts, there'll

somewhere along

be a hell of a

lot

the

of people

And I couldn't now and structured know what you would

jockeying in the party for the position to succeed you. agree with this characterization], this be thought of to the point

where you want

pursue

to

I

it.

think about John Connally as secretary of

don't

other than the fact that

state,

you know he'd clean that God-damned place out

as fast fas to]

make your

head spin."

Nixon:

"It

would

pose,

you can imagine, an enormous problem with

Henry, because John Connally,

if

he was secretary of state, would be secre-

tary of state."

Mitchell: "He would be secretary of state wouldn't

be.

to the point

where Henry

I'm not sure whether he wouldn't interfere with your

activities."

Nixon: "No,

I

don't think

program he does

take good care

of,

I

it,

he carries

think,

and

the situation in Henry's case. cuss this. adviser]

.

is

.

would.

God-damned

treasury, that [while] he has

the

it

that his staying

on

It

it

also

in this

found that with Connally

strong views, but

if he

at

ever gets

something that we can

out. That's

we

may

I

have to reconsider the interest in

be that you

first

kind of position

never of course dis[as

national security

not the best solution."

Mitchell: "That may very well be."

Nixon: "He's gone so

up

to this point.

to

do

it,

problems

all

down

this road,

and

he's

been indispensable

Something we'd never discuss with him

Henry has in dealing

this

the rest of

enormous

political strength,

until we're ready

but he has some

with people."

Mitchell: "He has

and

far

it."

that.

He's developing a Kissinger cult and egotism

"

Separation Anxiety

2 37

Nixon: "Connally, of course, the very natural move

would be from fense,

only other at

all possibility is

de-

"

and

that's also a possibility.

But Nixon had long-range

his

The

secretary of state.

to the presidency

know

to

.

.

was too smart,

that Connally

political ambitions, to take

especially given

on running the Pentagon

in the

midst of a bogged-down war in Vietnam. Inevitably, the conversation turned to Agnew, and what to do about him.

Nixon: "He has an impression, you know, that the

vice president really

should have the role to come in and advise the president as to what to do

about bombing Haiphong.

He

NSC,

does, he participates in the

but you

cannot have a situation where the vice president can come in independently for the purpose of affecting the policy. That's a very difficult [notion] to

understand.

but

the only

it's

I

way

had a

to

man

go through

for eight years,

it

can serve in that job"

[as

damn

it's

hard,

Nixon did under

Eisenhower].

Mitchell:

"I

ments about what he was going domestic

affairs,

— when we

wrong

think Ted got off on the

and

to

He

so forth.

do

foot with

the state-

all

intergovernmental relations and

in

believed that channel, you know, so

"He [can do] as much as he wants to." Mitchell: "Well, when you're in these welfare programs and so forth, sent over to him and they're foregone conclusions, you know, without any of his input, this is the thing that's really riling him more than Nixon (breaking

in):

.

.

anything

else."

Mitchell in that

his

.

clearly

was sympathetic

to

Agnew's

plight



not surprising,

he shared the vice president's tough law-and-order posture.

own dour

Agnew, aware

now-gloomy

personality dovetailed with the that he

remained on the outside looking

in, in

And

attitude of

terms of ad-

ministration policy. Perhaps to assuage Mitchell's protective feelings to-

ward his

the vice president,

Nixon now struck

a

more sympathetic note of

own.

Nixon: "As

Of course

far as he's

he does have the

vice presidency]

presidency that

concerned, of course, [he thinks

is

a

we might

is

a loser.

God-damn

hell I

of a problem that

mean, of

all

him

for a residence for the vice president,

...

and

had. Financially

it

[the

the jobs that I've had, the vice

[job for] losers.

be able to do for

I

of] the future.

is I

The one that

I

think

thing that

I

do think

intend to bite the bullet

we

can do

it. I

can't

do

it

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS before the election but

now

say,

I

think immediately afterwards

a residence,

and some

Mitchell: "Does that

sort of a

more, or

cost



less?

of economic problems.

lot

Keeping

up?"

it

Nixon:

"It'd

be kept up by the government ... so he can entertain.

an

attic

apartment.

lives in

would be let

could simply

time for the vice president to have a residence. Don't you

it's

think so? So that will take care of a hell of a

Give him

we

my

.

after

it

and force

through the

it

view of the enormous

I'd say in

portant to have a residence.

damn Congress

"I

inadvertently, as a partial

brought

and

press,

im-

it's

think that would appeal to him, financially and other-

mentioned the problems he the idea, but

about,

it

eventually

among

other

down on things,

26

has."

came

outcome of troubles of his own not

seen at this time, but very soon to crash tion

early.

.

.

Nixon never followed through on



It

."

wise, because he has very frequently

pass

out.

responsibilities of the vice president,

particularly with the need to entertain [foreign visitors]

Mitchell:

work

Well, that's something to just

.

intention immediately after the election just to bite the bul-

and go right

And

.

He

to

fore-

him. His later resignathe

nomination

and

confirmation as vice president of Nelson Rockefeller, an enormously

man who had a spacious mansion in the diplomatic neighborhood of Washington. He gave it to the government as the official vicepresidential residence. Meanwhile, Agnew as vice president continued to wealthy

apartment

live in his

—and regularly

receive free groceries delivered

whose owner had been supplying him

there by a Baltimore food store

since his days as Baltimore county executive

Nixon,

in

concluding his long chat with Mitchell, pondered Agnew's

future after the vice presidency:

"He once

New

me

York before he came out

know why court, but you know he's a the court.

don't

I

and governor of Maryland.

for

the hell

— but ,

I

told

that his

main

enough of

don't

money, and life.

"You don't have

a public figure that's

one

interest

anybody would want

I

saw him

in

was going on to

go on the

know what Agnew would do af-

ter the vice presidency. But that's his problem to

Mitchell responded:

me when

to

some

extent."

worry about Ted Agnew. He's

where he has an enormous capacity

to

make

had during

his

the Nixon-Mitchell conversation in

its

of the things, of course, he's never

" 27

Haldeman, who had joined later stages,

recounted the conversation in his diary,

adding something

Separation Anxiety

that the

White House tape did not

include.

He

said Mitchell reported that

Connally had commited "to changing parties but asked Mitchell

ought

to

do

it,

and Mitchell

Mitchell feels

to.

said after the election,

we should go on our

basis that

when he

which Connally agreed

we have

to,

therefore, as-

sume that Agnew is the candidate. But we should work on a deal with him and make sure we've got things split up right without letting him develop a high price for taking the job."

The language

28

hinted that Nixon had not abandoned the idea of getting

rid

of Agnew, only of postponing the notion until after the reelection of

the

Nixon-Agnew

own. At any Mitchell to

rate,

tell

else."

29

him

This

Agnew was

New to

could be persuaded to go on his

according to Nixon's later memoir, "on June 12

my

the decision definitely to have

running mate.

I

said that

we would

it

at their last

still

might

also lead the

convention just in case

remark indicated a

Democrats

pawn on

I

I

asked

him on

not announce

Democratic convention. This would generate

creating suspense; tacks on

when Agnew

Agnew I had made

the ticket again as until after the

ticket,

interest

it

by

to soft-pedal their at-

decided to choose someone

that as far as

the chess board to be

Nixon was concerned,

moved around

at will.

concerns, however, were about to push aside the matter of what

do about

this restless

and, in the

mind and preoccupation of the

dent, increasingly unsatisfactory vice president.

presi-

Chapter iy

FROM WATERGATE TO RE-ELECTION

Shortly after midnight

five days after

conversation with Mitchell about

Committee

or another for the

ity

Agnew,

Haldeman had

men working

in

one capac-

to Re-elect the President

(CREEP)

five

broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters Watergate hotel and

The

vice president

Wardman Park

the

in his

to the

Hotel on the night of the break-in. At that time, the

top operatives of the lieutenant at

was

at the

Kennedy Center. Washington apartment at what then was

complex adjacent

office

his

Nixon campaign, including Mitchell and

CREEP,

his chief

Jeb Magruder, were in Los Angeles for meetings

with leading California Republicans, and a major "Celebrities for Nixon" party the following day.

back

to

On

learning the news, they caught an early flight

Washington.

Later the next day, a Sunday, Agnew, as reported in

The Washington

match, he phoned just

his aide

Post,

now

became

restless.

Looking

for a tennis

and frequent partner, John Damgard, who had

returned weary from a weekend party on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Damgard, preferring

in his

hung-over

state to play doubles, readily

a third player and, searching for a fourth, tracked

by

aware of the break-in

also

this

time was

Unknown According

to

at Mitchell's

found

down Magruder, who

Watergate apartment.

Agnew, a desperate strategy meeting was going on. Magruder later, the "bitter, despondent" tone of it made

to

241

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

24 2

him glad to get the tennis invitation as an excuse to get away. As Damgard remembered, Magruder said into the phone within earshot of Mitchell: "Of course I haven't forgotten. No, no. Me disappoint the vice president? Certainly not.

showed up

at the

I'll

be leaving here momentarily."

1

He

soon

Linden Hall indoor court off the Capital Beltway bear-

ing his tennis racquet and a briefcase stuffed with papers.

A curious Agnew took Magruder aside between games and asked him: "Jeb, It

what the

hell

is

going on?" Magruder replied:

got screwed up. We're trying to take care of

wanted discuss

He

to hear. it

young

told his

again, in that case."

After the tennis match, as the

CREEP official

young

He had could

from

his

it."

was our operation.

That was

all

Agnew

we ought

associate: "I don't think

to

2

Damgard was

giving Magruder a

lift

home,

suddenly asked to be driven back to the court.

forgotten the briefcase he had

tell

"It

manner

that

it

left at

courtside,

and Damgard

must have contained something very

Damgard complied and Magruder fetched the briefcase sitting where he had left it. Upon being dropped off at about midnight, he went to his kitchen for a glass of milk. Then Magruder took a light-gray folder from the briefcase and examined its contents. They comprised important.

charts

and descriptions of the grandiose

espionage schemes of

political

G. Gordon Liddy, a former FBI agent, and E. Howard Hunt, a CIA retiree, working covertly under Mitchell at CREEP to undermine the

Democratic campaign.

The proposed at the

capers ran from kidnappings of anti-war demonstrators

approaching Republican convention to bugging the

campaign plane and

buses;

from luring Democratic

an original price tag of a million dollars, of

that.

3

Hunt had

labeled the

nominees'

politicians to a float-

ing brothel at the Democratic National Convention in

sabotaging the air-conditioning at the convention

rival

hall.

later whittled

Miami Beach to The project bore down to a fourth

whole bizarre operation "Gemstone," and

Magruder had eventually become covert operations in his office at

the custodian of the

files

CREEP. The Watergate

dealing with

break-in was

among them. Before departing Los Angeles, Magruder had phoned his administrative assistant,

the

files to his

was already

Robert Reisner, telling him to go into the

office

and take

all

home. Bob Odle, the campaign's director of adminstration,

there,

showing

a

panicked Liddy

how

to use a

paper shred-

From Watergate

der.

When

Odle

Reisner couldn't get

home he

put the

with him

when he went

his

the papers into his briefcase, he asked

all

in a closet. Later

kitchen that night,

he gave

ought

have a

to

little fire at

So before going room, and

living

who came

file

to the

"It's all right. It's just

they turned

in.

Magruder took out

The

the papers,

I

have

file

apparently

to get rid of."

Haldeman

seemed well on

when

his

For once,

way

criticism of

to the

world are

in the

When

replied:

he finished,

a reporter

to the

was the

whole Watergate scandal.

his isolation

George McGovern, who by now

Agnew

from the Nixon inner

which

political blessing.

circle,

According

asked Nixon whether he had talked to

fiasco,

Nixon

closest in-

Democratic nomination. So

him, was proving to be a

Watergate

his wife,

but essentially was told to stay out of the

later

whole business and focus on

ritated

woke

Agnew, Magruder, and

sitting at the tennis court as

volvement the vice president ever came

just that.

into his

5

The Gemstone

did phone

walked

Then, examining each sheet

stir

their partners played doubles that night apparently

He

"Maybe you

burn the house down." Her husband

some papers

in

4

doorway. She asked him: "What to

file

it

what he should do with the

your house tonight."

into the flame.

you doing? You're going

who had

Magruder,

recalled, told him:

built a fire in the fireplace.

in turn, he fed the

Gail,

to bed,

arrival

recalled having asked Mitchell before

Magruder

papers. Mitchell,

to

it

On

file.

with Agnew. Examining the

to play tennis

Magruder

leaving the apartment for the tennis court

Gemstone

2 43

which consisted of the Gemstone

to take the rest, file

to Re-election

replied:

"Of course

not."

Agnew

to

did

so

ir-

Gold,

about the

6

Around this time, Agnew did not need to say or do much to undermine McGovern, who was having problems enough within his own party and campaign. After defeating Humphrey in California, in early June,

in the last significant primary,

McGovern had

to

overcome

a

convention

fight over the allocation of California's delegates before finally nailing

down

his

staff, his

nomination. Then, after torturous discussion with his campaign choice of Senator

Thomas Eagleton of Missouri

to be his run-

ning mate backfired badly on him. Disclosure that Eagleton had had a history of mental illness, including resort to electrical shock therapy,

eventually forced Eagleton's withdrawal and produced a drawn-out search

for

McGovern

a

replacement.

Several

prominent Democrats, seeing

already as a lost cause, declined until Sargeant Shriver, the

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

244

Kennedy in-law and former Peace Corps and anti-poverty chief under Johnson, accepted. The McGovern candidacy was in a shambles well before the

On

fall

campaign had begun.

the night

Connally

McGovern made

in for a small dinner,

primary purpose was

Agnew

recorded

"Connally

later:

and the P agree he's not

But

I

self.

.

made

that there's

who we want

.

The P made

as his successor."

although he thinks

it's

Democrats-for-

Haldeman

P could not do

bad choice. But he

for the presidency

problem of having him

was making any

the point that the

a

VP

The

also present.

clear that he felt the

no qualification there

term and that there are other

up

it

for P, so that poses a

don't think Connally .

Haldeman

question dominated the talk again. As

Agnew on,

anything but keep

with only

to discuss Connally's direction of

Nixon, but the

Nixon had

his acceptance speech,

and

for VP.

real pitch for the job

him-

can resign during the second

man

possibilities for the

the

P wants

to set

7

A week later, Nixon told Haldeman to advise Connally that he, Nixon, had no choice but

to

go ahead with

absolutely convinced that he 1976]

and

that there's

Agnew on

the ticket, but that "the

[Agnew] should not be the candidate

no question about

P

is

[in

P has worked out a and again that "the P has made

that,

but the

move him out after the election" mind who it has to be to succeed him, which Connally knows, and he has a way to work that out." During this period, Agnew was more occupied staying in Nixon's good way up

to

his

8

graces than in adding to McGovern's woes. Shortly after the Democratic

convention,

Haldeman made

this diary entry that

suggested Nixon's de-

"He [Nixon] got into a discussion on how to handle Agnew. He feels we must not build him up in terms of where he goes and so forth. That we should put him in the South, the small states. No important duties. He feels he termination to keep his ambitious vice president in his place:

shouldn't have played tennis Saturday morning.

pared for his press conference instead."

But

Agnew

still

did not seem to get

He

should have pre-

9

it.

As he was about

to

go out cam-

make a firm announcement that Agnew would be on the ticket again. "The P, Mitchell and I met with the VP and the P hit him hard on the way he wants him to handle his campaign," Haldeman wrote. "Emphasizing no attacks on the press, to attack McGovern only on the issues, not personpaigning in Oregon in

late July,

Nixon decided

it

was time

to

From Watergate

To ignore Eagleton, not

ally.

controversial,

P

Mitchell and the

was going

was

.

.

The VP,

incredibly,

Oregon.

10

him he must not do that." way in which Nixon dealt with Agnew and Connally

August announced

Haldeman wrote

.

to hit the press again in

instructive of the president's attitude

early

'76.

told

contrasting

2 45

himself become the issue, stay non-

no discussion or comment on

raised the point that he

The

let

to Re-election

toward each.

When Connally in

formation of Democrats-for-Nixon,

his

regretfully that

it

"was done

via press conference be-

cause he [Connally] refused to take advantage of the equal time opportunity

we

had, so didn't get on TV, which

way he wanted it, so that's the way handle him that way to survive."

it

is

a real tragedy, but that's the

was done. Unfortunately, we have

to

11

Connally by

time not only was overseeing the formation of

this

Democrats-for-Nixon but also serving paign on strategy.

He

also

run

dition.

was

as a third-party 12

his

A

few days

in the

Nixon cam-

to

make

sure he didn't

succumb

to pressure

candidate again, despite his crippling physical con-

Nixon phoned Wallace and

later,

man whenever

key adviser

was holding the hand of George Wallace, who

was strongly anti-McGovern, to

as

Wallace wanted anything.

Agnew

Instead of being able to rely on

as

told

him Connally

13

another former governor to

handle that task, Nixon had to endure more irritations from his vice president.

Around

this time,

Haldeman

wrote,

"The

VP

called concerned

about a problem with Sinatra and the Democrats. Sinatra was miffed that the

VP

didn't call him, instead of Connally, but he's aboard

giving some money."

Nixon, frustrated stick to the

one task

now and

is

Haldeman simply brushed off the lament. by such diversions from Agnew, wished he would he did best doing an imitation of the Old Nixon

14



against the political opposition. In 1952

and 1956

as

Eisenhower's running

mate, Nixon had single-mindedly zeroed in on Democratic presidential

nominee Adlai Stevenson, paying this time,

Nixon tack on

little

attention to his running mates.

By

Shriver had replaced Eagleton on the Democratic ticket, and

told

Haldeman he "wanted

McGovern, not on

to be sure that

Agnew

stays

on an

at-

Shriver, that he should ignore Shriver totally."

15

That seemed to be Agnew's intent, but as the Republican convention in Miami Beach approached, he did something, perhaps inadvertently, that rattled it:

Nixon, or

"We had

a

at least

Haldeman, once

90-minute

flap

with the

again.

VP

As Haldeman described

regarding his seconding

VERY STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

246

speeches, because he decided yesterday to have Dr. Joyce Brothers, the psychologist, be one of the seconders,

This obviously would be a

own

disaster, in that

would look

it

psychiatrist to prove he isn't nuts like Eagleton

him back,

around on

it,

wanted

check with

called it,

and they went ahead and asked

to

called

I

him back

although

her off."

Once

him he

again, said that

so.

he got his

After going

is.

couldn't do

So Haldeman did

P."

would be very

it

told

like

her.

it,

he said he

"The P agreed,

[so

I]

the decision, he agreed to go along with

is

difficult for

him, since he has

now

to turn

16

Agnew had

again,

been rebuffed by Nixon, via Haldeman.

Had

Connally made such

a proposal,

been rejected

abrupt fashion. But the different personal chemistry

that existed

in that

it

was highly unlikely

that

it

Agnew and Nixon and

between Nixon and

would have

Connally ex-

plained why.

A

few days before the convention opened, Nixon gave Haldeman fur-

ther instructions that he did not

upon Agnew

as the person

want

in

any way to indicate he looked

he wanted to replace him in the White House

in 1977.

Haldeman

wrote:

"He [Nixon] wants

to be in the hall before the

how

introduced, he went through the details on procedure, that the family.

He

is,

VP

the

latter pose,

have connoted convey. For that

all

he wants the onstage

families together,

and

VP understands no hands-over-head type shots."

known

as "the

to viewers

all that,

is

come up and then Mrs. Nixon up and then

want anything with the two

doesn't

he wants to be sure the

The

to

VP

armpit shot"

in the political trade,

1

might

an endorsement that Nixon did not want to

Nixon

in his acceptance speech left the impression

was rosy between him and

his vice president.

Congratulating the

convention for renominating Agnew, he told the delegates:

"I

thought he

man for the job four years ago. think he's the best man for the job today." He added, a bit prematurely as matters turned out: "And I'm not going to change my mind tomorrow." The Republican convention concluded with hardly a hitch, as was the

best

I

18

Democratic

efforts to fan the

embers of the Watergate break-in

full-blown campaign issue got nowhere. For

all

of Agnew's growing rep-

utation as a negative campaigner, none of the stories about istration corruption

plugged

in

enough

and dirty

tricks

to be involved in

touched him.

them nor

into a

trusted

Nixon admin-

He was

neither

enough among the

From Watergate

makers and

policy

much

be told

As the

CREEP

political strategists at

2 47

or the

White House

fall campaign ran

its

on the Watergate

course,

McGovern was unable

story or with his

carried the day in the 1968

McGovern

as a

campaign

to gain a

outspoken opposition

the Vietnam War. Agnew meanwhile reworked the themes

tion of

to

of what was going on.

foothold, either to

to Re-election

—law and order and

that

had

the demoniza-

soft-on-communism, soft-on-protesters

liberal

who wanted to coddle welfare cheats with wild giveaway schemes. Once again, Agnew did not campaign with Nixon, but he aggressively defended him on Watergate.

mid-September

Insisting in

that he

will not place a misconstruction

would "adopt

upon my

intent,"

a

new

Agnew

style.

.

.

that

nevertheless

continued to accentuate the negative. In a speech in Minneapolis, he suggested that the Watergate break-in had been instigated to embarrass the

president and his party.

He

Lawrence O'Brien of trying

accused Democratic National Chairman to

smear the Nixon administration with

"patently political suit" linking Republican officials to the break-in. In

London, Kentucky,

a

few nights

later,

Agnew

charged McGovern

with "agonizing over the continuation" of the Vietnam

demned him City,

for advocating

amnesty

for draft evaders.

South Dakota, McGovern's home

him of waging

a

state,

a

19

War and conAnd in Rapid

the vice president accused

campaign of "smear and innuendo"

—while doing

just

that himself.

Neither the

style

nor the rhetoric of the self-proclaimed

seemed much different from those of the Old,

who had made him

vice president.

20

all

New Agnew

in the service

man Agnew

of the

Nixon repeatedly cautioned

not to engage in personal attacks, and on several occasions he called on

Connally

Even

in

moved

in as

Agnew any

to

make

having more

in late bility

credibility.

21

nevertheless continued to relish his old role as attack dog, and

efforts to rein

do with

speeches previously assigned to the vice president.

Agnew's supposed area of political strengh, Connally was being

him

in,

even for legitimate reasons that had nothing

Of one such instance "We had a flap tonight on the possiAnti-War Amendment in the Senate tomorrow.