“He’s a revolutionary, Mankiewicz,” Haig replies. “Mankiewicz is a known revolutionary.”
“Of course,” Nixon says. “Isn’t that something? The McGovernites. The McGovernites . . . “
Mankiewicz smiles. Twenty-five years after he ran George McGovern’s presidential campaign against Nixon, the “known revolutionary” is vice chairman of Hill & Knowlton, one of the lobbying and public relations firms that defines establishment Washington. He goes to work each morning in one of the buildings of the Watergate complex -- although not the same building in which henchmen from Nixon’s reelection committee were discovered crowded with their burglary tools under a desk in Democratic National Committee offices, one-quarter century ago today.
If, in the intervening years, the Watergate itself has faded as a symbol and become once again more of an address, the same is seldom said of the other great revelation of the Nixon presidency: the tapes. Richard Nixon on tape is still a potent thing.
Especially when he’s talking about you.
“I mean, it’s amazing,” Mankiewicz said, upon actually hearing his name bandied in the Oval Office two decades after the fact. He is 73. “It’s not like the transcripts.
“I get the sense from their tone of voice that they had enormous things hidden that were yet to come. And maybe still are.”
A man named Dick Tuck was even more on Nixon’s mind. Tuck, also a Kennedy loyalist and Democratic regular who is now 73, never rose above the middle ranks in a national campaign. He might not have earned even a footnote in political history had the president and his staff not boiled up a strategy to lay a sizable portion of their scandal at his feet.
Tuck was a prankster. His practical jokes were so widely admired that, when the investigation into the Watergate break-in uncovered the “dirty tricks” squad of Donald Segretti’s, Tuck was trotted out as the excuse. Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman led a parade of White House aides who publicly tried to explain away Segretti’s sabotage as “an attempt to get a Dick Tuck capability.”
> It never took. Even Nixon, behind closed doors, said Segretti’s efforts -- including a letter on the stationery of presidential candidate Sen. Edmund S. Muskie (D-Maine) denigrating blacks -- weren’t comparable to Tuck’s pranks.
“Shows what a master Dick Tuck is,” the president said in a conversation taped March 13, 1973. “Segretti’s hasn’t been a bit similar.”
“Nixon was an admirer,” his old tormentor admits. “He had kind of a love-hate relationship, with his paranoia.”