Department of Intrigue

Nixon Aide Wanted GOP to Court Kerry

By Mary Ann Akers Staff Writer
Friday, July 13, 2007

Even as the Nixon administration was plotting in 1971 to destroy John F. Kerry, then the young, charismatic leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the president's top political strategist apparently didn't get the memo.

Instead, the operative, Murray Chotiner, wrote his own note advocating that the Republican Party recruit Kerry. Kerry did go to Yale University, after all; he must be one of them, Chotiner surmised. "He is a Yale graduate and is inclined toward the 'establishment,' " Chotiner wrote in a memo to Attorney General John N. Mitchell and White House Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman. "His background could be Republican."

The memo was included in about 80,000 pages of documents released Wednesday by the National Archives, which oversees the Nixon library.

Dated April 26, 1971, four days after Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about ending the Vietnam War, the memo, like many of the tapes and documents from the Nixon White House, showed how closely administration critics were scrutinized.

The way Chotiner interpreted Kerry's testimony at the hearing, and his statements on "newscasts" at the time, the future Democratic senator from Massachusetts appeared to have "no use for the Democrats as such" and "no use for Senator [J. William] Fulbright." In point No. 5 for his Kerry-is-a-Republican theory, Chotiner wrote that Kerry was asked how he voted in 1968. "He said 'if he had voted (which he did not), he would have voted for Nixon,' " Chotiner wrote.

Bottom line, Chotiner wrote to Mitchell and Haldeman, "Someone without officially coming from the Administration ought to talk with" Kerry about running for office.

But a transcript showed no discussion of the 1968 election, and Kerry insists he never would have voted for Richard M. Nixon.

"I think Murray Chotiner must have had an 18 1/2 -minute gap in his synapse, if you know what I mean," Kerry said in an e-mail sent yesterday by his spokesman. "I was an RFK, then Gene McCarthy, and ultimately a Humphrey supporter in '68 -- and I think any of us who lived through that period wonder what America would've been like if only any of those three men had made it to the White House. Certainly there would be fewer names on The Wall," he said, in reference to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

And no, Kerry said, seeking to keep the history books intact, he was never turned the other way.

"I experimented with a number of things in college. Being a Republican wasn't one of them. Besides, going to Yale doesn't make you a Republican. Going to Bob Jones University makes you a Republican."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company