October 12, 1972 – Vietnam Peace Speculation And A Nothing Burger Named Watergate.
October 12, 1972. A Presidential election campaign in full-swing and Vietnam peace negotiations in Paris were looking hopeful.
Henry Kissinger came back to Washington after four days of private meetings with North Vietnams top negotiators in Paris and was reporting the outcome with President Nixon. The meetings were the most intensive Kissinger had ever held with the North Vietnamese. That, and statements by President Nixon and other Administration officials indicated peace efforts were at a very sensitive stage and that it fueled speculation and hope that a peace settlement was near. Speculation – but no hard evidence. Nor was there any at the regular peace talk session held earlier in the day. Expectations far exceeded reality at the Peace Talks. It was the first public meeting after an unprecedented four days of secret talks between Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese negotiators and it was filled with the usual charges and counter-charges and restatements of previous positions. If there was a pending peace settlement, there was no hint of it when the delegates left after this days meeting. Dr. Kissinger left Paris, also saying nothing. But the possibility that he had a fifth meeting with North Vietnam’s Xuan Thuy led many to believe something was indeed happening. However, Nixon reiterated that only four meetings had taken place and that his meeting with Dr. Kissinger was a review of what transpired and what the options were.
Meanwhile, Nixon was heading to Atlanta Georgia for a rally and reception for Republican leaders in the South. It was one of the rare occasions Nixon left Washington during this re-election campaign. The rally in Atlanta was attended by several thousand people, drawn in part by posters put up several days earlier saying “Bring Your Family – See and Greet The President And Mrs. Nixon”. The advance publicity was successful and the streets were crowded. Nixon campaign officials estimated the crowd at 700,000 but there was no corroborating report from the Police that the number was that high. Nixon came with a message; that this year, it was okay and perfectly respectable for Southerners to vote Republican.
And that slightly buried-but-not-going-away story about the Watergate affair surfaced again this day. Senator Edwin Muskie disclosed he was thinking about suing President Nixon’s re-election committee and other White House officials. He thought they may have violated his civil rights through espionage and sabotaged his unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination. And another member of Congress sought to raise questions about the Watergate affair, and got nowhere. Hearings were supposed to begin this day, but the hour came and went without witnesses or even a quorum. Republicans boycotted the meeting as did those invited to testify; former Nixon re-election chief John Mitchell, Maurice Stans, White House lawyer John Dean and current campaign manager Clark McGregor. Seems the White House and Nixon supporters considered Watergate a “nothing burger”.
And that’s just a small slice of what went on, this October 12, 1972 as presented by NBC Nightly News.