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THE CORRUPTION OF the Nixon Administration was again confirmed Wednesday. Vice President Agnew's resignation and admission of tax evasion reflects the pervasive rot that infests the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.
Spiro Agnew was hardly a tragic figure burdened by noble intentions or a sense of mission large enough to match his office. His crime was a remarkably petty one, and his conduct as Vice President self-seeking and myopic. Faced with the prospect of a jail sentence, he thought of his office only as a shield between himself and prison, a chip to be offered in the century's most important plea bargaining session. Similarly, White House staffers during the 1972 campaign saw their posts only as means to insure Nixon's re-election, regardless of the law.
Agnew was a dishonest official, thrust into a position of visibility by Richard Nixon's crass political judgement in 1968. Nixon's man became a surrogate for his administration in speaking tours around the nation; now Agnew has become a symbol of Republican corruption.
During those speaking tours Agnew engaged in a series of attacks on liberal journalists, war resisters, and all those who departed from his own peculiar brand of law and order. Those attacks caused the most serious damage Agnew did to the country, for the vice presidency is fortunately a position almost totally lacking in power. Those attacks, which were discredited by their illogic when they were first made, were shown yesterday to be the rankest hypocrisy as well.
AGNEW HAS BECOME the latest in a long line of disgraced high officials who surrounded the president and his crime--tax evasion--hardly compares to the graver abuses of public trust committed by Nixon aides in the White House. He is only one of a group of men whose political fortunes were made by Richard Nixon and destroyed by their own unprincipled and unscrupulous behavior. But Richard Nixon's tendency to attract such men is no surprise; he has in the past come close to destroying himself through similar conduct.
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