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The “down” Years 1972-74
A Senator’s View
August 1976 | Volume 27, Issue 5
Of course the big news of the week—the big sensation—was the resignation of Richard M. Nixon. … Although I had constantly opposed resignation on the President’s part, preferring the impeachment process if he were found guilty of the charges made against him, my position collapsed on Monday when it came out that the statements he had been making for the last two years were not true, and that he was aware of the Watergate break-in scanjdal soon after it occurred. It was then obvious to me that he had tried to protect the guilty parties. When he made this admission, his support in the Congress rapidly dissolved, until by Thursday he had decided that it would be best for the country if he resigned.
Thursday night the President called about fifteen members from each house of Congress, including myself, down to the White House to state his position. The President told us that personally he would prefer to fight the charges made against him to the end, that he did not like to be a quitter, but in view of the many domestic and international situations that require full-time Presidential attention, he had decided that this country could not properly meet its problems with a part-time President. If he were required to spend some months in defending himself against impeachment charges, rather than devoting his time to the critical issues which lie before us, the effect could be very hard on our nation. …
It was an extremely sorry and emotional occasion, with many tears being shed, including those of the President himself, who had difficulty in starting his story to us and finally left the Cabinet Room in a highly emotional and tearful condition.
Congress is getting nervous. The change in the occupancy of the White House has brought about a change in the plans of the Democratic leadership. Business has speeded up. The Congress is showing a greater desire to cooperate with the new President. Conference reports are being hustled through for final action by both houses, and the last of the regular appropriations will soon be before both houses for action.
… Jerry Ford has gotten off to a pretty good start. …
One of the most unhappy weeks of the year, with the honeymoon between President Ford and the Congress and the public getting rather badly damaged.
After I had been given about an hour’s notice on Sunday, President Ford announced a complete pardon for exPresident Nixon covering any sentence which Mr. Nixon might receive later on if found guilty of participating in the Watergate mess through illegal action. Since the ex-President had not been found guilty of any charges which had been made against him, I was naturally somewhat surprised, as were a lot of other people in Congress and throughout the country. There is no question but what the President had the constitutional authority to grant such complete pardon, but whether such granting was premature or not is a matter for individual opinion.
… However, there is no question that if the ex-President is guilty of any of the charges made against him, he has already received a suffer punishment than any of the participants in the Watergate break-in who have already served time or are serving time in prison.
A new trade bill has been held up for almost two years because Senator Jackson, whose heart is set on being President of the United States, has so far insisted on attaching to it an amendment which would mortally offend Russia. Russia seems anxious to comply with his demands that Jewish people be given full freedom to leave the country, but cannot get down on its knees before us and beg for mercy. Scoop never got over the fact that we left Indochina without winning a military victory over the North Vietnamese, nor can he forget that he was virtually ignored at the Miami Democratic Convention in 1972.
The Senate Rules Committee has had Nelson Rockefeller back for further inquisition relative to his fitness to be approved as Vice President. I never was a particular admirer of Rockefeller when he was governor of New York, but I will say now that he has made Senator Cannon’s committee look rather inept and so politically biased that some of the members seem unable to recognize how necessary it is to fill the office of the Vice President of the United States, which has been vacant for three months. As has been pointed out by a prominent columnist, none of the members of this committee would be willing to answer the questions which they put to Rockefeller if these questions were directed at themselves. After the new Congress convenes on January 3, we will find out how many of the new members of the Congress are willing to put the need of the country ahead of their own desires for personal publicity.
… Much of the discussion on Friday was devoted to a bill relating to criminal proceedings that was considerably out of my line of work. …