That point, persuasively drummed and droned home in five hours of mostly colorless and snail’s-pace testimony from four secondary witnesses, is that the investigation doesn’t intend to sacrifice thoroughness -- or, when necessary, even boredom -- for sensationalism, just to hold the TV audience.
The old Senate Caucus Room, which has heard about skullduggery as far back as Teapot Dome 50 years ago, was decked out in its brightest TV lights and an anticipatory overflow crowd when Ervin gaveled the hearing to order at one minute after 10 a.m.
The first spectators had arrived outside the old Senate Office Building nearly five hours earlier and were now seated or standing at the rear of the chamber. The first two arrivals, Tom Ling, 24, and Spencer Turnipseed, 25, students at Wesley Seminary, fell asleep, lost their places in line, but got in anyway.
Ling and Turnipseed both said they were there to hear more evidence than what they had read about Watergate, and most others around them agreed.
Some talked loftily about wanting “to see the system work,” but Ronald Coleman, a 27-year-old recent graduate of Catholic University and blind, said: “We’ve all got a little sadistic streak in us -- like stopping on the highway to watch an accident.”
But there was little in this first day of the Watergate hearings to please the sadistic, except perhaps the sight of hundreds sitting stolidly through yawn-inspiring recountings or oft-told tales of how the whole business began.
Samuel Dash, the Georgetown University law professor who is chief counsel, led the witnesses methodically through their stories, with the minority counsel, Fred Thompson, taking over, and then the senators.
To make the record, they asked many obvious questions for which answers long have been public knowledge, and as they did, you could almost hear television channels being switched from Maine to California. At the outset, Ervin pledged “full and open public testimoney,” and that was what he started serving up yesterday.
The first witness, Robert C. Odle Jr., 29, described himself as director of administration for the Committee for the Re-election of the President, which in the Nixon administration means he was the office manager.
Odle, baby-faced, with an accountant’s manner and a dull gray-striped suit he will still look right in when he’s 60, came more in sorrow than in anger or repentence.
He opened with a little speech about “a million volunteers across the country” and most of the 400 in the re-election committee headquarters who had nothing to do with Watergate, including himself.
He praised President Nixon, who he said “ultimately will be regarded as one of the greatest Presidents the country has ever known,” and then he proceeded to illustrate, perhaps unwittingly, how things could go wrong at the Committee for the Re-election of the President in spite of such dedication and majority honesty.