August 4, 1973 – Putting A Strain On The Constitution – Skylab: Period Of Adjustment – Kent State Redux
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A week of drama, the week ending this August 4th in 1973.
Supreme Court challenges to the War in Cambodia, and Senate Watergate Hearings.
Both had much to do with the separation of powers between Executive and Legislative branches of government, and another had to do with the top level of the Judicial branch to intervene to halt a military action, ordered by the Executive branch, but not approved by the Legislative branch. The challenge that our incursion into Cambodia was unconstitutional, and that a single Supreme Court Justice acted to end it without at least four other Justices supporting that position before action could continue. Since it was a historic position for the Supreme Court not to act upon themselves to override an Executive Decision, the actions of Justice William O. Douglas to enforce a halt to the bombing in Cambodia brought a storm of controversy. Since the bombing campaign was slated to end soon anyway, the other three justices who spoke out against the Cambodian war didn’t want to engage the Judicial branch in a dust-up with the Executive branch. The actions of Justice Douglas were countermanded by Justice Thurgood Marshall and supported by the other Justices. The flurry came as the result of a suit brought about by Brooklyn Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman to end the bombing.
Since the deadline for ending the bombing came on August 15th, and the hearings regarding the suit would begin a week before, it seemed a moot point. But it raised a bigger questions – was the bombing having its intended effect anyway? No one seemed to know the answer to that question.
The other big challenge in the Separation of Powers came by way of the Watergate hearings and refusal to allow committee members to hear White House tapes pertaining to Watergate matters. The matter came to a boil over examination of Watergate figure H.R. Haldeman. Seems Haldeman was allowed by the President to hear certain portions of the tapes and take notes. But the notes and the tapes would remain in the President’s hands and (at least the notes) not given over to the committee. This prompted committee Chairman Sam Ervin to issue a direct challenge to the Executive Privilege claim and a suit was filed to break the deadlock.
And even in space there was some drama to be had as Skylab was going through a period of adjustment and fixing bugs in the system. One bug did develop into major concern as it was discovered rocket propellant was leaking into the second of four rocket quads aboard Skylab that would bring the astronauts back. NASA immediately began to prepare the next launch vehicle in case it had to be used as a rescue ship. It was later ascertained the Apollo vehicle could make it back on two quads, and there contingency plans to come home with less. So the plan was to continue preparing the rescue vehicle but also continue the original flight and Skylab for its full 59 days in space.
And that’s just a sample of what went on this rather crazy week on Planet Earth and outside of it, as reported by CBS Radio’s The World This Week for August 4, 1973.