SHERMAN ADAMS took the blame again. Former president Richard Nixon, in his May 4 television interview, said that the reason he didn't rebuke his top aides when he found they were doing wrong was that he recalled the unpleasantness of having, as Vice President, to rebuke President Eisenhower's chief of staff, Sherman Adams.
"I'll never forget the agony he went through," Nixon said in reference to Adams, whom he characterized as "honest in his heart" but with "some misjudgment." Adams, the modern prototype of the all-powerful White House aide, also came to personify the corruptness of politicians. By today's standards, his proven "misjudgment" was almost trivial. He accepted a vicuna coat, Oriental rug and other favors from Bernard Goldfine, an industrialist in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission; and then Adams intervened with government officials on Goldfine's half. Although a Congressional investigation showed that Adams had received "monetary reward" for his services from the citizen on whose behalf he had acted, he was fired but never prosecuted.
Nixon's agony was over telling Adams he must go, and Nixon apparently never got over it.
But what of Adams himself? Now 78 years old, running a ski resort, has he forgotten his agony, if that is what he felt at the plunge from high favor to disgrace? As an old man, has he found peace in the White Mountains of New Hampshire?
"I know what you're paid to do - pry into things out of context I'm not going to discuss anything, I hate to pick up a reciever anymore," Adams said last week, in response to the question, "How are you?"
"This is no-fly-night organization - it's over a $3-million corporation," he snapped when asked if he had found a quiet life among the hills of his youth. And then he added that he would be willing to talk about what might be good for his business, and how he is "consistently adding to it by plowing back my earnings," and it would take "a very long time to explain" the complexities of the organization.
This is the man who was once said to run the White House, if not the country, in virtually the same tough style. His title now is president of Loon Mountain Recreation, which is near Lincoln, N.H., where he has lived on and off since 1923.
The first thing he did in 1966 when carving the resort out of the mountain was to blast the area with dynamite, one of the consequences of which was that a violently dislodged tree trunk flew out and hit him, and he ended up in a neck brace. Earlier this year, he slipped on one of the icy walkways, and ended up in the hospital, where he had a blood clot removed from his brain. Neither blow seems to have discouraged him, and his staff says he is the same as ever.
Lincoln is a town of about 1,300 people, where Adams went to work for a lumber company after his graduation from Dartmouth College, now the beneficiary of his personal papers. The house in which he lives, with his wife Rachel, is the same one they had when he started his political career in the state legislature, and which they kept as he rose to Congress, the governorship, the Eisenhower campaign managership, and, finally, to be Chief of Staff and, it was widely believed, virtually President of the United States while his chief, President Eisenhower, was severely ill.
Whatever agony Sherman Adams may feel, from his fall from highest power, from the irony of the miniscule size of his scandal as compared with the scandals of the Nixon administration, he, unlike the man who says he had to fire him, will not discuss.