In Defense of Richard Nixon

The Chicago Tribune, a long-time supporter of Richard Nixon, called for Nixon's resignation last week after the release of the White House transcripts. After the Tribune's editorial appeared, Dean Burch, a special assistant to the president, sent the following statement to the Tribune's editors.

The Chicago Tribune's editorial calling for the president to leave office is a most regrettable result of the Watergate affair.

It is regrettable, in major part, because it comes from a newspaper respected by the nation and by its readers--among them, Richard M. Nixon. It was clearly a "painful decision" for the Tribune's editors, most of whom know the president personally.

There can be no argument with the Tribune's right to its conclusions--but there is wide berth to contest the Tribune's reasoning in arriving at these conclusions.

The Tribune says the Richard Nixon revealed in the transcripts is not the man they believed him to be. They maintain the newly-emerged "private Nixon" of the Watergate discussions is somehow less of a man than the "public Nixon," the leader of a great American nation.


Here, I must differ forcefully. What emerges from these transcripts is a president searching diligently for the truth in Watergate--attempting to balance the enduring interests of the Republic, the commands of the law, and the lives and reputations of his friends and loyal deputies.

Here was a president faced with getting to the bottom of an emerging scandal that he realized might shake the foundations of the Republic. Yet, on the other hand, he was faced with preserving the presidency and, indeed, the nation itself.

But the key question remains: Did Richard Nixon do wrong?

The transcripts--read with an open mind and a practical knowledge of decision-making at the highest levels of the private sector of government--make the case for the President's actions. What Richard Nixon did was right. Not simply and unequivocally right, perhaps, but right in context and right on balance.

The president responded to emerging internal crisis in the manner of any man at the pinnacle of leadership.

What emerges from the transcript is life as it is. It is life in government and politics, life in industry and business--and, yes, life in the editorial offices of every newspaper. It is how things actually are, warts and all.

Of course, the reality of the transcripts grates against the revered American ideal of the presidency. The salty language, the exploration of alternatives that took place in the Oval Office of the White House may be shocking to some but certainly not to those who have known the men who have occupied the office of President.

The Chicago Tribune editors know well that every presidential word and phrase is not to be etched in marble. It is not the case at the White House, nor in the corporate suites of Manhattan, nor even in the editorial offices on Michigan Avenue.

The president lives in the real world of tough, practical decisions that affect the future of every American--the survival of a nation, the existence of life on this planet.

The president is a man chosen by his fellow citizens from their own ranks. He is the electoral survivor of a process unique and uniquely successful among world governments--a process designed to place at the head of this great nation a man of the people--one who knows and shares everyday problems of all Americans, yet has the qualities of leadership to meet the complex challenges of world problems.