George Will: The real reason for Watergate?
The burglary he demanded was not the one that would occur exactly one year later at the Democratic National Committee’s office in the Watergate complex. Richard Nixon was ordering a break-in at the Brookings Institution, a think tank, to seize material concerning U.S. diplomacy regarding North Vietnam during the closing weeks of the 1968 presidential campaign.
Working at the University of Virginia, in the Miller Center’s Presidential Recording Program, Hughes has studied the Nixon tapes for more than a decade. In his new book, “Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate,” Hughes argues that Nixon ordered a crime in 1971 hoping to prevent public knowledge of a crime he committed in 1968.
June 17, 1971, was four days after The New York Times began publishing the leaked “Pentagon Papers,” the classified Defense Department history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Nixon worried that further leaks, including documents supposedly in a Brookings safe, would reveal his role in sabotaging negotiations that might have shortened the war. This fear caused Nixon to create the Special Investigations Unit — aka “the plumbers” — and to direct an aide to devise other proposals such as the one concerning Brookings. This aide suggested using the IRS against political adversaries, but added:
George Will is a columnist for The Washington Post.
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