One of the most interesting parts of the Watergate story was narrated by one of the top players in the scandal: John Dean, counsel to President Nixon. In his gripping account in his 1977 book, Blind Ambition (London: W.H. Allen & Co. Ltd.) of his first day in the White House, he wrote about his time with the powerful administration of one of the world's greatest statesman, Richard Nixon.
Here is an excerpt from that favorite old book of mine which has been gathering dust all these years:
The tests started that first day at the White House. ... but then my secretary brought me a sealed envelope with a small red tag. I asked her what it was. She had not opened it; it was stamped "CONFIDENTIAL", and the red tag meant "priority". Someone had been planning work for the new counsel. The cover memorandum was in a printed form, with striking blue and red instructions filled in:
FROM THE STAFF SECRETARY LOG NO.: P523
Date: Friday, July 24, 1970 Time: 6:30 p.m.
Due Date: Wednesday, August 5, 1970 Time: 2:00 p.m.
SUBJECT: Request you rebut the recent attack on the Vice-President.
An attached "confidential memorandum" said that a new muck-raking magazine called Scanlan's Monthly had published a bogus memo linking Vice-President Agnew with a top-secret plan to cancel the 1972 election and to repeal the entire Bill of Rights. Agnew had publicly denounced the memo as "completely false" and "ridiculous", and the editors of Scalan's Monthly had replied: "The Vice-President's denial is as clumsy as it is fraudulent . The document came directly from Mr. Agnew's office and he knows it." My instructions were clear:"It was noted this is a vicious attack and possibly a suit should be filed or a federal investigation ordered to follow up on it."
"Noted" by whom? Since the memorandum was signed by John Brown, a member of Halderman's staff, I called him to find out. The "noter" was the President. I was told: he had scrawled my orders on the margin of his daily news summary. No one had to explain why the president's name was not used. He was always to be kept one step removed, insulated to preserve his "deniability."
So this is my baptism. I thought I was astounded that the President would be so angrily concerned about a funny article in a fledgling magazine. It did not square with my picture of his being absorbed in diplomacy, wars and high matters of state. Was it possible ...?
May be continued soon if I survive this present conspiracy...???