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THE JUDGE OVER THE WATERGATE AFFAIR TELLS HIS STORY,
This review is from: To Set the Record Straight: The Break-In, the Tapes, the Conspirators, the Pardon (Mass Market Paperback)
John Joseph Sirica (1904-1992) became famous for his role in the Watergate scandal, when he ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over his recordings of White House conversations. He wrote in the Foreword to this 1979 book, "I received scores of letters from friends and from the general public urging that I set down my own impressions of that crucial period in our national history... I also found that many of the previous accounts were self-serving. I felt I had an obligation to set the record straight... I have deliberately avoided making this a book for lawyers alone... my desire is that the young people in this country ... will see that our system works... and that it must be nurtured and preserved..."
He wryly notes, "I remember that back on April 30, 1973, President Nixon, then trying to save himself from the Watergate scandal, told the nation I was 'a courageous judge.' I wonder why he didn't tell the nation then that the sentences I had imposed on march 23, 1973 were outrageous. I guess he misspoke himself, as he did frequently during that period." (Pg. 86)
Commenting on the transcripts which Nixon provided of some of the tapes, he notes, "Compared to the tapes I had heard, the transcripts were mild indeed. In places where the president had used one vulgarity or another, the transcripts noted 'expletive deleted.' This phrase was repeated so often in the texts that it became a national joke... More important than the deletion of curses, however, was the editing out of long and critical sections of the conversations. I... found the stunning 'I don't give a s___' quote missing... with the most incriminating statements by the president either fuzzed over or missing altogether, so that the real impact of that tape was gone." (Pg. 176)
He is critical of President Ford's decision to pardon Nixon, observing that "though publicity surrounding the case would indeed have been a problem, it would not have been an insurmountable one... The argument came to this: Nixon couldn't be properly tried because he wouldn't allow anyone to try him properly." (Pg. 186) Noting that Nixon often claimed that his reluctance to "clean house" was based on his loyalty to his staff; Sirica adds, "The tapes paint quite a different picture, showing not a president worried about the welfare of his aides, but rather a president worried about his own political skin. And in the end... the very aides Nixon said he wanted to protect were the men who suffered most, serving jail terms while their chief escaped that fate." (Pg. 190)
His ultimate conclusion on Nixon is that "If Nixon had had the character of President Eisenhower... this scandal would never have happened... I regret that I supported him in his national campaigns. I hope no political party will ever stoop so low as to embrace the likes of Richard Nixon again." (Pg. 192)
One of the most interesting of the various Watergate memoirs, this one is essential reading for anyone studying Watergate.