January 1973: Watergate, Roe v. Wade, Vietnam, and the Month That Changed America Forever
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In January 1973, politics in America changed forever as, in the span of 31 days, the Watergate burglars went on trial, the Nixon administration negotiated an end to the Vietnam War, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Roe v. Wade, Lyndon Johnson died in Texas, and Richard Nixon was sworn in for his second term. The events had unlikely links and each worked along with the others to create a time of immense transformation. Using newly released Nixon tapes, author and historian James Robenalt provides readers an insider’s look at what happened in the White House, events both fascinating and terrifying, during this monumental month. He also delves into the judge’s chambers and courtroom drama during the Watergate break-in trial, and the inner sanctum of the United States Supreme Court as it hashed out its decision in Roe v. Wade. A foreword by John W. Dean sets the stage for this unique history, which details events that, while taking place more than 40 years ago, are key to understanding today’s current political paralysis.
in the capital. Jittery cabinet members leaked stories to the press that they had expressed misgivings about the Cambodian operation.83 The secretary of the interior, Walter Hickel, wrote a stinging letter to Nixon, which was released to the press. Hickel charged that Nixon was consciously alienating young people and ignoring his cabinet. By Wednesday, May 6, the president was completely isolated and seemed unsure how to respond. “As day went on, concern from outside about campus crisis built
honor of President Johnson’s funeral.15 McCord’s lawyer, Gerald Alch, again asked the court to reconsider his request that he be permitted to put on a defense that McCord was acting under “duress” when he participated in the eavesdropping and break-in. McCord, Alch repeated, felt threatened by all the radical violence and demonstrations, causing him to “have an apprehension of bodily harm or serious bodily injury to himself, the President [and others].” Sirica was steadfast. He would let Alch
Frustrated, Trying New Tactic on G.O.P.,” New York Times, March 23, 1998. 47. Ibid. 48. Tape 035-017 (December 27, 1972, Colson and Nixon), White House Tapes, http://www.nixonlibrary.gov/forresearchers/find/tapes/tape035/035-017.mp3. Nixon had just returned that evening from Truman’s services in Independence, Missouri. 49. “Transcript of the Johnson Address,” New York Times, March 16, 1965. JAMES ROBENALT is a trial lawyer and the author of The Harding Affair and Linking Rings. He, along with
speculate or specify when life begins.”44 Blackmun did not want to draw the line. By the end of May, he made another plea for rearguments in both Roe and Doe: “I believe, on an issue so sensitive and so emotional as this one, the country deserves the conclusion of a nine-man, not a seven-man court, whatever the ultimate decision may be.” Blackmun said he wanted the summer to think it over. His plan, unexpressed to others, was to go back to the Mayo Clinic to conduct his own independent study of
Everything, however, changed four days after the December 4 pretrial conference, when Dorothy Hunt’s plane crashed in Chicago. Howard Hunt instructed Bill Bittman to strike a deal with Earl Silbert, and to nail down a promise of clemency from the White House. But even pleading guilty would prove problematic with this difficult and mistrustful judge. Bittman and Silbert worked out the broad strokes of a plea agreement in the waning days of December 1972, as American bombs pounded Hanoi. Hunt