Sunday, August 16, 2009
"Hell, I would have burned the tapes"
One week ago today marked the 35th anniversary of the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Sixteen years ago I interviewed Rep. Gene Taylor about the presidents from Nixon through the first President Bush. I wasn't able to locate the interview in time for the anniversary, but I came across it later in the week. Two of the men Nixon called on for advice during the time he was considering his course of action were Rep. Taylor and former Seventh District Congressman Dewey Short:
Gene Taylor and Dewey Short entered the north gate at the White House. "As we went in," Taylor recalled, "Bob Haldeman was walking out. Dewey asked, 'Is that Bob Haldeman?' I said it was. 'He's cold, isn't he?' "
After the two Missourians were ushered in to see the president, Nixon began talking about Watergate and the House Judiciary Committee's ongoing impeachment hearings.
"To go through what he had to go through," Taylor said, "he had to have nerves of steel. He said he didn't plan to resign, but even then I thought he would.
"The end was at hand. He had let Ehrlichman and Haldeman go. Something was going to have to give. It wasn't a good thing and it wasn't necessary."
Nixon asked the Missourians for some advice. "Dewey gave him some good advice. He told him to be completely truthful. President Nixon said he had been. The problem was, he hadn't been. The next week, more tapes came out." Two weeks after that, President Nixon resigned.
"When he resigned," Taylor said, "it was a pitiful thing. A lot of great accomplishments were buried in the rubble of Watergate. He was one of the smartest presidents we've ever had. He was an expert in foreign affairs. He knew every country and its leader like the back of his hand. He is a brilliant man. But those tapes became the issue.
"Hell, if those tapes had been mine, I would have taken them and burned them."
(The top left photo of Nixon and Gene Taylor was taken at the White House. The other photos are from a Nixon campaign visit to Springfield in 1968. From top right, Nixon, Gene Taylor introduces Nixon, and Nixon with former Seventh District Congressman Durward Hall)