John K. Andrews was a speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon from early 1970 to late 1973. He described himself as “a conservative, upper middle-class, Midwestern WASP Republican … a textbook example of the natural Nixon supporter.” At the White House, he felt “an almost fillial affection an loyalty” for the president, because Andrews “believed deeply, and still do, in most of what he wanted to do for America and the world. I yield to none in lauding his achievements for peace.”
Yet on Feb. 2, 1974, Andrews penned an op-ed for the New York Times urging that Nixon be removed from the presidency. In his piece, Andrews began by lauding Nixon for giving voice to the “silent majority” regarding the Vietnam War. Yet by 1974, the White House had “undertaken to cow that majority back into silence by making them doubt their own decent instincts on an even more basic issue — executive responsibility and the role of law in our democracy.”
Andrews castigated Vice President Gerald R. Ford for asserting that almost all the people who thought Nixon should resign were “extreme partisans” or “super welfare-staters.” Andrews countered that a bipartisan coalition of Americans were disaffected with the president’s “defiant, fugitive leadership style.”
Andrews described the White House in 1972, as Watergate began to unfold, when “the president I so admired was replaced by the ethically numb figure unable or unwilling to vindicate the idealism so many of us on his young staff had cherished about American constitutional government.” After trying without success to fix the problem from within, Andrews resigned in December 1973.
Andrews prayed “still to see him somehow open up, own up, take command of the reformers, and serve out his term.” But instead Andrews found himself facing “the unpleasant imperative of measures to save the presidency from this president in the event the president continues refusing to be saved from himself.”
Whether or not Nixon was technically a criminal, “he has run a campaign and an administration infested with them and has done shockingly little to clean up the mess.” The president’s misconduct had become “one of the most clear-cut moral issues” in American politics since the abolition of slavery. Although Americans still had a president “in the literal sense … in moral terms the revered leadership position is quite vacant.”
The president could save himself by coming clean if his only crimes were crimes of omission; yet “his stubbornly guilty demeanor” suggested otherwise.
The legitimate remedy was resignation, which was favored by a plurality of the public. Failing that, the president should be impeached. Should Congress fail to act, “Then, God forbid, what a banana republic we would be.”
John K. Andrews, Jr., “Ex-Nixon Aide: On Joining the Rebellion,” New York Times, Feb. 2. 1974.
Andrews was the only Nixon White House staffer who resigned in protest of Watergate. In 1985, Andrews founded the Independence Institute, one of the first state-level think tanks in the United States. He hired me as Research Director in 1992, and I am still there. Andrews went on to serve two terms in the Colorado Senate, including two years as president of the state Senate. He is currently head of Centennial Institute, a public policy organization at Colorado Christian University.