They wore their "old school ties," one of them cracked, and while the ties were red with nearly identical designs, the weren't school ties any more than they were White House ties. The absurbity of it made people around Herb Klein and Ron Ziegler laugh, especially people who remembered that the original "Ron and Herb Show" wasn't always a laughing matter when it was playing the Nixon White House.
That's a show a lot of people may have thought folded once and for all seven years ago when Richard Nixon dumped Herb Klein as director of communications and Ron Ziegler, White House press secretary, took over those functions. Last night there was a brief and considerably happier rerun as Klein starred at a publication party celebrating his new book, "Making It Perfectly Clear," and Ziegler showed up as one of the guests.
In fact, "The Ron and Herb Show" is the title of a chapter in Klein's book offering an inside account of Richard Nixon's "love-hate relationship with the media." Klein traces his relationship with Ziegler, which began with Nixon's unsuccessful 1962 gubernatorial race in California, and while his portrayal of the former press secretary is not a particularly flattering one, neither is it an especially tough one.
Nor should it have been, in Ziegler's opinion, since it "wouldn't have been true -- Herb and I had an excellent relationship.There were points of minor tension between us but Herb Klein was my mentor."
Compounding Ziegler's problems as White House press secretary, Klein writes in his book, were his youth (age 29 when he started the job) and lack of "visible experience." Then there was Ziegler's domination by H. R. "Bob" Haldeman, whose "mouthpiece" he was as much as he was Nixon's. h
"He should have been left more on his own," Klein said last night, "but in the end, he was caught in a bitter struggle of emotion between the press and the president. It was a no-win situation. At times he did undercut me, but I don't think that was his intention."
Klein writes that Ziegler's greatest mistake probably was allowing himself to be "duped by those who were covering up the Watergate case," an error that eventually led to "the greatest bloodletting the White House has seen between a press secretary and the news corps."
The former communications director calls Haldeman "well motivated, wrongly directed, a major detriment in the last days of the president because he barred open conversation."
Klein says he never had any question about Haldeman's loyalty or intelligence but thinks that so much responsibility had been put upon him, "he was not up to the crisis which faced him when Watergate broke."
Klein thinks that his relationship wiith Nixon, one that went back to Nixon's earliest days in politics, was undercut by Haldeman's "stringent" attitude on access to the president. Equally harmful, says Klein, was Chuck Colson's "negative" attitude. Colson, he said, "took every opportunity he could to knock down any of us who had some independence."
Klein calls Colson "the toughest man I ever met, tougher than machine politicians I met over the years. He only knew the word 'hardball,' and his influence created an atmosphere which led to Watergate. He'd override anyone. I have a personal prejudice there because we had many bitter conflicts."
Colson, says Klein, came into the White House as liaison to special groups such as labor, veterans and ethnics but soon was developing an empire in which he tried to include the broadcast networks. "His theory was that he was a tough man who could dominate them, and the only way to deal with them was to dominate them."
Then there were the stories about the "old Nixon" and the "new Nixon."
"The new Nixon was always one that had a relationship with the press in conferences and open conversations," says Klein. "The old Nixon came when the press became testy with him. Then he'd become 'Tricky Dick' to the press and he'd be very sensitive about that image, and he'd back away."
The party for Klein, given by his publisher, Doubleday, was also a reunion. Besides Ron Ziegler, now 40 and head of his own consulting firm, there was Rose Mary Woods, who along with Klein probably knew Nixon longer than anyone else there.
But if Ziegler has plans to write a book of his own White House experiences, he wasn't announcing them. "Herb's given me an incentive," he said. "I think he's written a good book about himself and his observations. As for my self, I don't want to rush into a book -- not that I have that much to reveal.