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Watergate Scrapbook: What Do You Remember?

Thirty years ago today spies hired by the Committee to Re-Elect the President broke into the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and were caught.


Richard Nixon

  • "I am not a crook."
  • "There must be no whitewash at the White House."
  • "One year of Watergate is enough."
  • "How much money do you need?" Nixon asked. John Dean:"I would say these people are going to cost a million dollars over the next two years." Nixon:"We could get that ... you could get a million dollars. And you could get it in cash. I, I know where it could be gotten--" Dean:"Uh-uh." Nixon:"I mean, it's not easy but it could be done."
  • "I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment, cover-up, or anything else, if it'll save it, save the plan."
  • "Play it rough. That's the way they're going to play it and that's the way we are going to play it."
  • "I'll pardon the bastards."
  • "What really hurts in matters of this sort is not the fact that they occur, because overzealous people in campaigns do things that are wrong,. What really hurts is if you try to cover it up."
  • "The arts, you know, they're Jews, they're left wing. In other words, stay away."
  • "Give 'em an hors d'oeuvre and maybe they won't come back for the main course."
  • "You don't know how to lie," Nixon told a political associate."If you can't lie, you'll never go anywhere."
  • [expletive deleted]
  • "When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."
  • "Let us begin by committing ourselves to the truth, to see it like it is and tell it like it is, to find the truth, to speak the truth and to live the truth. That's what we will do." Acceptance Speech, 1968, Republican convention.

Sam Ervin

  • "How do you know that, Mr. Chairman?" asked John Ehrlichman at the Senate Watergate hearings."Because I can understand the English language. It's my mother's tongue."

John Mitchell

  • " When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
  • "Katie Graham's gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that's published."

John Ehrlichman

  • Of FBI Director L. Patrick Gray:"Let him hang there; let him twist slowly, slowly in the wind."

John Dean

  • "There's a cancer on the presidency."

H.R."Bob" Haldeman

  • "Once the toothpaste is out of the tube it's going to be very hard to get it back in."

Ron Ziegler

  • Ziegler: referring to the announcement that President Nixon believed no none in the administration,"past or present" should be given"immunity from prosecution," stated that this was"the operative statement." R. W. Apple, Jr. asked if that meant all other statements were"inoperative." Yes, responded Ziegler.
  • "A third-rate burglary."


Who Was Deep Throat?

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who first broke the story of Watergate, have never identified their chief source, dubbed Deep Throat, after a pornographic movie of the same name. They promise to reveal his name after he dies. For 30 years it's been the best kept secret in Washington.

Many people have tried to guess the identity of Deep Throat.

  • John Dean in an ebook published today on Salon.com identifies four likely suspects: Pat Buchanan, Ray Price, Steve Bull, Ron Ziegler. Last month a press release indicated that Dean had figured out who Deep Throat was and was prepared to name the person in his ebook. That person was apparently Nixon aide Jonathan Rose, a former Army intelligence officer, who attended Yale with Bob Woodward. But Rose threatened to sue and Dean backed off.
  • Leonard Garment, Nixon's lawyer, claimed in a book last year, In Search of Deep Throat, that he had solved the riddle, naming John Sears.
  • William Gaines, Knight Chair professor of investigative and enterprise reporting at the University of Illinois, assigned his classes to study all available evidence to determine Deep Throat's identity. After three years of research the students unanimously settled on Patrick Buchanan.

Did Nixon Know in Advance About the Watergate Break-in?

Nixon always maintained that he did not have advance knowledge of the break-in and no hard evidence has ever surfaced to indicate that he did. John Mitchell knew, as he admitted to Bob Haldeman. Both Alexander Butterfield and Leonard Garment believed Nixon knew. Butterfield said he'd stake his life on it.

Did Nixon Know in Advance About the Break-in at the Office of Daniel Ellsberg's Psychiatrist?

On June 13, 1971 the New York Times published the famous Pentagon Papers, a secret history of the Vietnam War initiated by LBJ Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. The papers were leaked to the Times by Daniel Ellsberg. At first, Nixon responded to the scoop with indifference; most of the disclosures were embarrassing to Democrats. But Henry Kissinger, his national security advisor, was furious and claimed it made the United States look weak. In September a White House-sponsored gang of thugs known as the Plumbers broke into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist, Dr. Fred Fielding, in hopes of finding dirt on Ellsberg. They failed.

Nixon always claimed that he did not know in advance about the break-in. Egil"Bud" Krogh, the White House official in charge of the Plumbers, told John Dean in March 1973 that the break-in was Nixon's idea. NIxon claimed he did not find out until Dean told him on March 17. But in his memoirs Nixon said that he would have been justified in ordering the break-in on the grounds of national security. As Nixon had famously said previously, if the president does it, it's not illegal.


Investigative reporting (revived)
Investigative reporting (carried too far)
Nixon forced out of office
Because of the scandal, the system favored the election of an outsider with no national experience (Jimmy Carter ) in 1976
Imperial presidency trimmed back
Pictures of the next president (Gerald Ford) fetching his own paper and toasting bagels became iconic
System worked
Americans, already traumatized by Vietnam, became ever more cynical
Establishment of tradition of special prosecutors
Establishment of tradition of special prosecutors
Presidential papers put under the control of the archivist of the United States
Presidential papers put under the control of the archivist of the United States (unless a subsequent president chooses to eviscerate the law with an executive order)
FBI and CIA made independent of the White House
FBI and CIA fearful of conducting aggressive investigations (in part a consequence of Church Committee hearings)


More than 70 people were convicted of crimes related to Watergate (some pleaded guilty before trial). Attorney General John Mitchell, referring to the crimes committed by officials, called them the White House Horrors.

  • Breaking into Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office.
  • Mitchell gave approval to the break-in at the Watergate.
  • G. Gordon Liddy proposed firebombing the Brookings Institution.
  • E. Howard Hunt fabricated documents implicating John Kennedy in the assassination of South Vietnamese President Diem.
  • John Ehrlichman ordered FBI Director Gray to take possession of the files in Hunt's safe, keeping them secret from prosecutors.
  • Gray destroyed the evidence from Hunt's safe.
  • Henry Petersen gave Dean secret grand jury testimony.
  • Gray at the FBI gave Dean access to all FBI investigation files.
  • Creation of the Plumbers at the White House to plug leaks through the use of illegal wiretaps.
  • Sandwedge: The Caulfield operation designed to orchestrate a massive campaign to spy on the Democrats.
  • Ehrlichman claimed he did not know in advance about the Ellsberg break-in; he knew.
  • Gemstone: The Liddy operation to kidnap students who might disrupt the Republican convention in 1972; use prostitutes to compromise Democratic politicians. Attorney General Mitchell objected to the plan on the grounds it cost too much; he later approved a scaled-down plan. Mitchell, Haldeman and Jeb Magruder approved of Gemstone.
  • Hush money paid to Watergate break-in defendants.
  • Nixon promised clemency to Watergate criminals.
  • Caulfield sent to Chappequiddick to pose as a reporter to dig up dirt on Kennedy before all the leaks.
  • Nixon is heard on the tapes telling Ehrlichman in April 1973 that he should hint to Dean to stay on the reservation because in the end the only man who can grant Dean clemency and save his ability to practice law is the president.
  • Charles Colson was guilty of offering clemency to Hunt at Nixon's orders.
  • Nixon told Petersen to stay out of the Ellsberg psychiatrist's break-in on the grounds that an investigation would compromise national security.
  • Nixon proposed to Alexander Haig and Fred Buzhardt that they manufacture evidence -- a missing dictabelt tape -- wanted by Judge John Sirica; both refused.
  • Nixon ordered the IRS to audit the tax returns of Larry O'Brien, head of the Democratic National Committee.
  • Nixon ordered the IRS to stop an investigation of Howard Hughes.
  • Huston Plan: In June 1970 Tom Huston persuaded the heads of the CIA, DIA, and NSA to approve a plan for black bag jobs against"enemies" of the Nixon administration. (J. Edgar Hoover opposed the Huston Plan; Nixon, fearful Hoover would blackmail him by leaking word of the plan, dropped it.)