“We would have thought many of these people would be dead by now, but people just live longer,” Woodward, an assistant managing editor at The Post, said at a media briefing on the papers, archived at the university’s Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. “It’s amazing how long people live today.”
But what is in the collection reveals publicly for the first time that even Nixon’s closest aides and senior Republicans on Capitol Hill shared “doubts, worries and suspicions” about Nixon. They were concerned, Woodward said, both about the president’s involvement in the criminal Watergate coverup and his fragile psychological state toward the end of his presidency.
As Republican senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona so succinctly said about Nixon, according to the newly available documents: “I began to think that he was off his head” and “lying all the way through.”
Goldwater died in 1998 at the age of 89.
The collection was culled from 75 file-drawer-size boxes accumulated during Woodward and Bernstein’s reporting and writing for The Post, for the book and movie versions of “All the President’s Men” and for the book “The Final Days.” The University of Texas paid Woodward and Bernstein $5 million for the collection last year.
The collection includes a meticulous record from the beginning to the end of the Watergate scandal. The documents range from Woodward’s hand-scribbled notes from the preliminary court hearing for the five men arrested June 17, 1972, after a break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex to 42 pages of typed notes gleaned from eight extensive interviews with one of Nixon’s principal Watergate lawyers, J. Fred Buzhardt.
According to a synopsis of the Buzhardt interviews that is included, the lawyer said that 10 months before the president resigned, “I concluded . . . that Nixon would not make it.” He described in detail to the reporters how Nixon resisted disclosing to him and other lawyers the contents of the secret Oval Office tape recordings that eventually led to his downfall. Instead, Nixon ordered them to leak stories about how Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson reportedly resisted disclosing their own tape recordings. “I was given screaming instructions to leak it,” Buzhardt said about purported Kennedy tapes.
Buzhardt said he eventually understood why. After the Supreme Court ruled on July 24, 1974, that Nixon had to turn over the tapes to the Watergate prosecutor and Buzhardt heard the June 23, 1972, recording, he said he “at once . . . realized it was over.” In that recording, six days after the break-in, Nixon plotted with aides to use the CIA to divert the investigation and cover up White House involvement.