The Nixon years and the Watergate era – certainly one of the most emotionally draining episodes in our country’s history. When even Nixon’s most conservative supporters from the GOP were calling on him to resign, in light of the mounting evidence and calls for impeachment over the Watergate break-in and attempted coverup of details and responsibilities. Responsibilities that were pointing in the direction of The President, and his crumbling support.
James Buckley, brother of Conservative icon and publisher of The National Review William F. Buckley, was an avid supporter of Richard Nixon; going to far as to sing his praises and call for his re-election in 1972, was now calling for his resignation because he felt, at the time, the process of impeachment would have divided the country even further than it was.
America was divided in 1974 – in a sense, it has always been divided. But in 1974 that division was becoming more vocal and indeed, with Vietnam coming to an end and questions over why we were there in the first place still at the forefront of national debate, one more blow to our faith in government and our leaders in telling the truth had become more difficult to grasp. And at the epicenter was Richard Nixon, whose defense of his position and his insistence on his lack of knowledge of the break-in were wearing more thin with every revelation – and with revelations coming almost daily, adding up to a numbing shock that was overtaking America in 1974.
And so Senator James Buckley’s call for President Nixon to resign was probably not that shocking in retrospect, even though he was only the second GOP Senator to ask for his resignation, but it was the culmination of a nation growing tired of being shocked, tired of being lied to – weary of endless accusations and counter-charges, that at some point, someone had to say stop. As Buckley pointed out in this dramatic News Conference, he had agonized for some time over the issue and its deeper implications – and felt it was incumbent upon him and to his constituents to state plainly that conclusions he had reached.
Here is Sen. James Buckley’s reading of that statement, as broadcast on March 19, 1974.