George McGovern Discusses Watergate, Nixon And Executive Privilege – 1973 – Past Daily Reference Room
Senator George McGovern – Face The Nation – August 19, 1973 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
As the events of these past few months increase in intensity and as the subject of Impeachment becomes more and more evident, listening to the events of a previous time when the subject of Impeachment and the unwillingness of a President to cooperate with Congress continue to ring with a strange and unsettling familiarity. Flash back to 1973, the President was Richard Nixon and the matter at hand was Watergate and the repeated attempts by the President to stymie any investigation into wrong-doing or illegality on the his part.
Senator George McGovern was the Democratic candidate who ran against Richard Nixon in the 1972 election. He was also the victim of an alleged plot by Nixon and his surrogates to dig up dirt on the McGovern campaign, which led to the break-in at the Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate Apartments. The affair began with the arrest of five men for breaking into the DNC headquarters at the Watergate complex on Saturday, June 17, 1972. The FBI investigated and discovered a connection between cash found on the burglars and a slush fund used by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CRP), the official organization of Nixon’s campaign. In July 1973, evidence mounted against the president’s staff, including testimony provided by former staff members in an investigation conducted by the Senate Watergate Committee. The investigation revealed that Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices and that he had recorded many conversations.
After a series of court battles, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled that the president was obligated to release the tapes to government investigators (United States v. Nixon). The tapes revealed that Nixon had attempted to cover up activities that took place after the break-in, and to use federal officials to deflect the investigation.
This interview with Senator McGovern from August of 1973 is almost a year before Nixon’s resignation, but it gives ample proof of how Congress wrestled with the issue and how the subject of Impeachment wasn’t taken lightly. But it also gives evidence of just how much resistance Richard Nixon put up to the investigation and how he had tried unsuccessfully to stonewall any attempts at getting to the truth of the matter which would eventually lead to his downfall.
At the time of this interview there was no way of knowing just how it would wind up. Then as now, we were in the midst of confusion and division with no fixed view on the future – then as now we were baffled by the goings on; horrified that the country had to go through this – completely unsure where this would lead.
Remember that while you’re listening to this Face The Nation episode with Senator George McGovern – history as it’s unfolding is much different than history in hindsight. If that’s any comfort.