Nine days later Ziegler termed the reports “a blatant effort at character assassination that I do not think has been witnessed in the political process in some time.”
In November, after the election, the official denials continued.
“The charge of subverting the whole political process, that is a fantasy, a work of fiction rivaling only ‘Gone With the Wind’ in circulation and ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ for indecency,” said Charles W. Colson, a key White House aide.
In a vitriolic comment issued at the peak of the presidential campaign, Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.), then chairman of the Republican National Committee, attacked what he called “political garbage” printed about the Watergate.” . . . The Washington Post is conducting itself by journalistic standards that would cause mass resignations on principle from the Quicksilver Times, a local underground newspaper.”
Within six months Dole was calling publicly for the resignation of Haldeman and Ehrlichman and saying “the credibility of the administration is zilch, zero.”
Mr. Nixon himself had already expressed his own strong conviction that “no one in the White House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident.” He made that statement at a White House press conference last Aug 29.
At that time, he praised the work of his White House counsel, Dean, in investigating the Watergate case.
“The other point I should make,” he said, “is that these investigations, the investigation by the GAO, the investigation by the FBI, by the Department of Justice, have, at my direction, had the total cooperation of the -- not only the White House -- but also of all agencies of the Government.
“In addition to that, within our own staff, under my direction, Counsel to the President, Mr. Dean, has conducted a complete investigation of all leads which might involve any present members of the White House staff.”
It was then that Mr. Nixon said, “I can state categorically that his investigation indicates no one either in the White House or the administration was involved.”
In his press conference that summer day, Mr. Nixon dealt at length with his hopes for the future. He spoke of winning the election and building a “new majority,” and of his desire to receive “a positive mandate.”
The President then spelled out his goals for his next four years. In doing so he returned to the theme that had helped him win in 1968 -- of a need to bring the country together.
“Four years ago the country was torn apart, torn apart physically and torn apart inside. It has changed very subtly, but very definitely. What we need in this country is a new sense of mission, a new sense of confidence, a new sense of purpose as to where we are going.”
On Nov. 7, Mr. Nixon won his great victory and by the time of his second inauguration on Jan. 20 it seemed that America was on the verge of a new era of peace abroad and reconciliation at home. He moved swiftly to implement his new goals, scrapped economic controls he had imposed earlier, hailed the return of America’s prisoners of war from Vietnam, and set out to fashion the new majority that would place his imprimatur on the year to come.
Now, only three months later, Watergate, the scandal that would not die, has overtaken him and his administration. And Richard Milhous Nixon, who has expressed so many times the personal problems of dealing with crises, is confronted with one of a magnitude that faced his presidential predecessors Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Warren G. Harding and, more recently and in a different context, Lyndon B. Johnson.