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The “down” Years 1972-74
A Senator’s View
August 1976 | Volume 27, Issue 5
Another matter of partisan interest has been the Democrats’ continuing to make hay with the Watergate episode. …
Unless the bunch at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue shows more sense pretty soon, a lot of Republican candidates are going to be in very severe difficulties for a good many years to come. It is true the public is showing comparatively little interest in the Watergate affair at present, any more than it is in the alleged efforts of the ITT to interfere in the politics of Chile. But what the Democrats are doing is building up a record with which to tarnish the Republican Party for a generation or more to come. … The President keeps aloof, at least publicly, apparently having the idea that his own place in history has been secured by bringing peace to the world during his occupancy of the White House. Apparently he isn’t worried too much about the success of the party, or the lack of it, after he leaves office.
During the week the Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on the energy situation, since petroleum products are an important factor in foreign trade. Our witnesses have mostly been professors who know quite a lot of history but who are hardly in the same class as the hardheaded, ruthless petroleum interests when it comes to providing solutions to our energy problems. There is no question but what the major oil companies, who are still able to supply their customers, are seeking a monopoly in the field of energy; I believe, too, that they are being cooperated with by major financial institutions.
On Thursday the principal witness from the Ford Foundation told us what we needed energy for, stating that 15 per cent was for heating, so much for industrial purposes, so much for this and so much for that, until he had allowed for 100 per cent of all energy available. But unfortunately he had not allowed any energy whatsoever for agriculture.
When it came my turn to question him, I asked him how long it had been since we stopped eating, because, according to my information, American agriculture—in producing commodities, processing them, and getting them to market—is still the largest consumer of petroleum products of any sector of our national economy. The witness hesitated and then said: “You are right.” … Certainly when supposedly important witnesses can overlook the value of agriculture, it is time for the people of this country to do a little worrying.
There has been an apparent change in the attitude of the White House toward the Congress. Since the departure of such White House stalwarts as Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and several others, cooperation between the executive branch and the Congress has shown considerable improvement. …
Sam Ervin’s Watergate committee hearings continued throughout most of the week, with John Dean, who was fired by President Nixon, as a principal witness. …
… one thing really stands out, as stressed by Senator Mansfield, and this is that none of the culprits in the Watergate break-in, and hardly any of the White House suspects appointed by President Nixon, had ever run for public office or had experience in government at any level. This simply emphasizes a claim that I have made for years: namely, that good government begins at the community level. Unless a person has performed his duties honestly and conscientiously at the lower levels of government, he certainly is not qualified for promotion toward the top.
On Monday I received a letter addressed to “Jesus Christ c/o George David Aiken” and, boy, was I really set up! It was actually a pretty good letter about current affairs, but I am in no hurry to deliver it in person.
At noon on Wednesday I spoke in the Senate for fifteen minutes urging the Congress not to duck its duty relative to the repeated charges which are being made against the President by those who are asking him to resign. I reminded the Congress that only the legislative branch of government can make the final determination as to the fitness of the President to continue in office.
So far the demand for the resignation of the President is largely the result of inspired emotionalism with very little, if any, evidence being produced which would warrant removal from office. … The question as to the fitness of the President to serve out his term is a matter which only the Congress itself can judge. Some members of Congress appear to be working overtime seeking escape routes from their duty. If the President could be forced to resign his position, then the Congress would be relieved of its responsibility to proceed on the evidence and find out if impeachment charges are warranted.