Refusal-to-Resign Speech Was Prepared for Nixon
A week before Richard M. Nixon resigned, a speech was prepared for him declaring he had done nothing "that justifies removing a duly elected president from office" and pledging to fight to keep his presidency.
The speech was never delivered. Instead, Nixon put out a written statement revealing the existence of the famous "smoking gun" tape showing his complicity in the Watergate coverup and waited to judge how the nation reacted.
In the ensuing national rage, Nixon saw that his presidency was doomed and gave up the fight.
The refusal-to-resign draft, a footnote to one of the most dramatic weeks of America's history, is among the 40 million pages of Nixon documents at the National Archives.
Raymond Price, Nixon's chief speechwriter, prepared two drafts on Aug. 3 and 4, 1974 the undelivered text and a resignation speech, marked "Option B." The latter became the basis of the speech Nixon delivered on Aug. 8, in which he told the nation he would resign because "I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress."
In a telephone interview last week, Price, 66, said he "vaguely" recalled writing the drafts for Nixon "so he could have something on paper that he could look at."
Alexander M. Haig Jr., who was Nixon's chief of staff, said last Friday that he ordered the drafts prepared at an "agonizing and wrenching" time. "One day he was going to resign, the next day he wasn't," Haig said.
The refusal-to-resign draft would have had Nixon concede that he made "a serious mistake" in withholding knowledge of the Watergate tape after listening to it the previous May. He gave it up only when the Supreme Court ordered him to.
In his actual resignation speech on Aug. 8, he said that "if some of my judgments were wrong and some were wrong they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interests of the nation."
In the undelivered speech Nixon would have said: "I firmly believe that I have not committed any act of commission or omission that justifies removing a duly elected president from office. If I did believe that I had committed such an act, I would have resigned long ago."
The draft continued: "We must not let this office be destroyed or let it fall such easy prey to those who would exult in the breaking of the president that the game becomes a national habit. Therefore, I shall see the constitutional process through whatever its outcome. I shall appear before the Senate and answer under oath before the Senate any and all questions put to me there."
In another section, the text argues that a resignation would invite resignation pressures "on every future president who might, for whatever reason, fall into a period of unpopularity."
As originally conceived, either draft would have been the vehicle by which Nixon informed the nation of the "smoking gun" tape. On that tape, Nixon is heard urging aides to use the CIA to halt the FBI investigation into the June 17, 1972, break-in at Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate.
© Copyright 1996 The Associated Press