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Burriss on Media: Nixon Tapes

It’s hard to believe, but the Watergate break-in was nearly 40 years ago, but somehow it has become the scandal that keeps on giving.

Last week the National Archives and the Nixon Presidential Library unsealed 26 files that include secret transcripts from former president Richard Nixon’s grand jury testimony. The documents are important because they represent the only time Nixon was legally required to talk honestly about the scandal that brought down his presidency.

The Obama administration had opposed unsealing the records, claiming they would invade some people’s privacy. However, some deletions were made in order to protect the privacy of people who are still alive.

Of particular interest for the last 2-score years has been the legendary 18-and-a-half minute gap in a tape recording considered critical to determining just what Nixon knew and when he knew it. Historians believe the tape was erased to hide part of an incriminating conversation between Nixon and his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman. The former president, however, denied knowing how the erasure came about, and said he “practically blew my stack,” when he learned of the gap.

Nixon’s secretary said she accidentally erased the tape, but forensic evidence shows multiple erasures that she could not have made. To this date there are numerous theories about who erased the tape and how it was done.

To the end Nixon denied any wrong-doing, and at one point referred to the break-in by secret White House operatives as “this silly, incredible Watergate break-in.”

The break-in, however, was part of a wider effort by Republican operatives to help insure Nixon’s reelection. The secret efforts included money laundering, forged documents, intimidation, so-called “dirty tricks,” and a host of other illegal campaign activities.

In the final analysis, however, the whole affair was totally unnecessary, since Nixon won the presidential election in a landslide.

I’m Larry Burriss.