- Anwar el-Sadat tries to broker a peace deal between Egypt and Israel; the US prevents this from happening. After the peace deal falls through, Sadat, who has pulled back from his predecessor Nasser's alliance with the Soviet Union, insists that Israel withdraw from all terrorities occupied since 1967, as mandated by UN resolutions. Israel, supported by the US, refuses. (ZNet, Jewish Virtual Library, Dan Cohn-Sherbok)
- The Corona spy satellite program comes to an end, after an extremely successful run of some twelve years and 145 launches. Corona provided detailed information about Soviet missile launch sites, naval and submarine bases, the USSR's nuclear weapons programs, and air and ground forces. Based on Corona's information, the US was able to hammer out arms control agreements far more favorable to itself than would have been possible without the information, not only giving the US critical information but providing the means to monitor Soviet compliance with such agreements. Corona, at a bargain cost of $850 million, played a crucial role in preserving the peace, limiting American defense spending, and reducing the threat of nuclear war. In 1967, President Johnson said to a Nashville audience, "We've spent $35 billion or $40 billion on the space program. And if nothing else had come of it except the knowledge we've gained from space photography, it would be worth 10 times what the whole program has cost. Because tonight we know how many missiles the enemy had and, it turned out, our guesses were way off. We were doing things we didn't need to do. We were building things we didn't need to build. We were harboring fears we didn't need to harbor."
- In 1985, marking the 25th anniversary of the first Corona flight, President Reagan will say, "President Eisenhower once remarked to General George Goddard, the grand old man of this business, that without aerial reconnaissance, 'you would only have your fears on which to plan your own defense arrangements and your whole military establishment. Now, if you are going to use nothing but fear...you are going to make us an armed camp.' This is no less true today than in President Eisenhower's time, and I reaffirm his conclusion that the knowledge which only overhead reconnaissance can provide is absolutely vital for the United States." Unfortunately, the Corona system had its limitations: it could not provide the clarity of photographic detail that high-flying spy plane reconnaissance provided, the time between the taking of the photographs and the photos reaching people's desk was often unacceptably long, and satellites could not easily be redirected to photograph areas of immediate interest. In 1962 Corona proved of little use during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Kennedy was forced to send U-2 flights over Cuba; one plane was shot down and its pilot, Rudolph Anderson, was killed. During the brief but intense 1967 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors, Corona's spy photography came too late to be of use in helping Washington monitor the fighting. In August 1968, Corona photography came too late to warn the US that the Soviets were readying an invasion of Czechoslovakia. A new, more sophisticated spy satellite program was needed. (Philip Taubman)
- During the year, the Clean Water Act is signed into law. The set of laws, strengthened by a series of amendments passed in 1975, have helped to reverse the draining and pollution of the country's wetlands, reduce water pollution, and detoxify much of the Eastern Seaboard. Unfortunately, legislation enacted during the first term of George W. Bush will reverse many of the Clean Water Act's achievements. (Wikipedia)
- Early 1972: The leading Democratic candidate for president is Maine senator Edmund Muskie. Muskie, the vice-presidential candidate with Hubert Humphrey in 1968, was considered the best of an unprepossessing field of possible opponents. Muskie is soft-spoken, thoughtful, and a relative liberal while avoiding the wild-eyed extremes of the political left-wing fringe. Despite his incumbency, Nixon isn't the kind of candidate that evokes strong emotional support, and considering this along with the burden of an ever-expanding Vietnam conflict, his advisors feel that their best means to victory is to ensure that Nixon runs for re-election against the weakest possible candidate. So the Nixon campaign team focuses on destroying the Muskie candidacy. Muskie already experiences some problems: he is less powerfully anti-war than many activist Democrats, which costs him some key support, and despite the fact that he's a veteran of many Senate races in his home state, he has some trouble in the early primaries and begins to be seen as more politically vulnerable. After ABC news anchor Howard K. Smith makes some waves by publicly supporting Muskie, thus giving the Nixon campaign fodder for their "the media hates us" theme, antiwar candidate George McGovern begins making inroads against Muskie. Thusly, when the Nixon dirty tricks brigade swung into high gear against Muskie, he was already in some political danger.
- But the campaign's level of dirty tricks surpassed anything ever before seen in American democracy; as the editors of Woodstock Journal observe, "The result was a campaign of dirty tricks not ever seen before in the American democracy It was the sort of subversion of democracy which that the CIA utilized during such of its coups, such as in Chile, Guatemala, Iran, et al." In fact, the campaign was assisted by a number of CIA and ex-CIA operatives familiar with such election-based black ops, most notably former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt.
- The campaign created a set of pamphlets supposedly produced by fellow Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey that were highly critical of Muskie; the effect of this faked criticism of Muskie by Humphrey, Muskie's former ticket-mate, was quite serious for the Muskie campaign. Other Nixonian "dirty tricks" include: the recurrent theft of polling information from Muskie campaign headquarters; the mailing of a news article critical of Edward Kennedy's political chances in fake Muskie envelopes to reporters and members of Congress; a variety of illegal "phone tortures" inflicted on the Muskie campaign by Nixon operatives; the surreptitious photography of secret campaign documents by, among others, a courier for the Muskie campaign paid to betray his employers; late-night harassing phone calls to voters by Nixon operatives identifying themselves as Muskie workers; bogus allegations of campaign fraud generated by Nixon operatives tasked to volunteer as Muskie workers and then conduct sabotage from within; faked campaign letters supposedly from Muskie that accused Senators Humphrey and Henry "scoop" Jackson of sexual improprieties (one Nixon operative, George Hearing, was actually convicted of criminal conduct over one of these letters); fake billboards in Florida proclaiming Muskie's support of "more busing;" phony Muskie campaign letters handed out at George Wallace rallies reading, "If you liked Hitler, you'd love George Wallace;" and other scandalous and often illegal tactics.
- The fatal blow for the Muskie candidacy is the release of the so-called "Canuck Letter," a letter written by White House deputy director of communication Ken Clawson and given to the editor of New Hampshire's far-right Manchester Union-Leader for publication. (Clawson has always denied writing the letter.) The letter, purportedly by "Paul Morrison," alleges that Muskie has used the derogatory term "Canuck" in referring to French-Canadians. (The French-Canadian voting bloc is large and powerful in New Hampshire. The letter alleges that once Muskie was asked if there were any "problems" with blacks in Muskie's home state of Maine, and he replied, "No, not blacks, but we have Cannocks." Published two weeks before the state primaries, the letter causes a firestorm of controversy, and impells Muskie to cut short his campaigning in Florida and fly to New Hampshire for damage control. The same edition of the Union-Leader includes a savage attack on Muskie's wife written by editor and owner William Loeb. Muskie delivers a hasty rejoinder from the back of a flatbed truck and, either through fatigue, outrage, or something else, breaks down in tears in front of his audience while defending his wife from Loeb's outrageous allegations. Though his campaign tries to claim that falling snow just gave Muskie the appearance of weeping, the damage is done. Muskie does not do as well as expected in the primary, and, after his campaign is plagued with further campaign tricks from Nixon's staff, bows out of the campaign on April 27.
- One of the more interesting questions surrounding the campaign is whether or not Muskie was "doped" with an unknown drug, possibly LSD, during his flatbed truck speech. While such a question might seem ridiculous, there is at least some reason to believe that Muskie might well have been so victimized. Former CIA agent Miles Copeland, in his book The Real Spy World, writes that he knows of one CIA operative, nicknamed "Jojo," who asked about LSD-type drugs that he could spike Democratic candidates with in the hopes that they would act strangely on the campaign trail. Many of Copeland's former colleagues, he writes, believe that Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, another CIA "spook" associated with the Nixon campaign, spiked Muskie's lemonade before the speech. It is known for a fact that Hunt was in close contact with the head of Nixon's "dirty tricks" squad, Donald Segretti. Copeland was a self-aggrandizing, name-dropping egocentric, but he was also one of the best and most knowledgable of the CIA's field agents; it is hard to dismiss his allegations out of hand. (Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Woodstock Journal)
William Rehnquist joins Supreme Court
- January 7: William Rehnquist is sworn in to the Supreme Court, replacing justice John Harlan. He will eventually replace Warren Burger as Chief Justice when Burger steps down in September 1986. Named by Richard Nixon along with a second justice, Lewis Powell, Rehnquist is a fierce conservative who made a name for himself as a Republican operative in Arizona. His Chief Justice nomination hearings will be marred by allegations, denied by Rehnquist but later proven accurate, that he had involved himself in denying minorities access to the polls as a GOP poll watcher in the early 1960s. Rehnquist also perjured himself during the nomination hearings by denying his stance in a brief he wrote for Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson that supported the notorious Plessy v. Ferguson "separate but equal" segregation decision. Rehnquist does not deny writing the brief, but claims that the brief reflected not his thinking, but Jackson's. (Jackson died in 1954 and cannot clarify the issue.) Other memos and the fact that Jackson was a moderate Democrat who did not support segregation cast doubt on Rehnquist's denial. (The issue will come up again in 1986, when Rehnquist is nominated for Chief Justice, but as in 1971, he manages to lie his way through it.) Rehnquist will quickly establish himself as the most conservative of the nine justices (until the later ascension of Antonin Scalia, who will take Rehnquist's position as associate justice in 1986, and Clarence Thomas), and will vote against the expansion of school desegregation and abortion rights. He is a powerful advocate for the "states' rights" movement. Due to his declining health, he is expected to step down from the Court in 2005. (Wikipedia, Vincent Bugliosi)
"Watergate" conspiracy to subvert election
- January 27: Attorney General John Mitchell rejects a million-dollar plan by Nixon's re-election team, CREEP, for kidnapping, wiretaps, and other illegal activities to disrupt the Democrats' election campaign as too expensive. The proposal is nicknamed "Gemstone" by creator G. Gordon Liddy, and includes the kidnapping of antiwar protestors at the Republican National Convention, employing prostitutes to entice Democratic candidates, sabotaging the building during the Democratic National Convention, and wiretapping Democratic candidates, campaign officials, and others. Mitchell, present at the meeting with Liddy and Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman, later says he "should have thrown Liddy out the window," but at the time merely tells Liddy that his plan was "not quite what we had in mind." (Mitchell later claims that he vetoed later, less extravagent plans from Liddy, but he and Jeb Magruder, deputy director of CREEP, both will approve Liddy's plans to wiretap key Democrats.) The campaign develops less expensive but similarly illegal tactics, including the carefully timed release of a forged document filled with racial slurs nicknamed the "Canuck letter" that costs leading Democratic candidate Edmund Muskie critical primary victories (Muskie's campaign was scotched by another forged letter, supposedly from Muskie, that accused fellow Democrats Henry Jackson and Hubert Humphrey of sexual misconduct). Another forgery, a supposed cable from the CIA indicating that candidate Edward Kennedy's brother John ordered the assassination of South Vietnam's Ngo Dinh Diem, disrupts Kennedy's own putative campaign; already . Prairie populist and antiwar candidate George McGovern eventually wins the Democratic nomination, much to the pleasure of the Nixon campaign. Before the new election reform law takes effect in April 1972, CREEP, led by the fundraising efforts of Maurice Stans, elicits huge contributions from corporate sources -- some contribute in hopes that they will receive favorable treatment from the White House, others fear revenge if they fail to ante up. So much money comes in that CREEP often refuses to deal with contributions of less than $100,000. Two smaller contributions, a check for $25,000 and a bundle of checks totalling $89,000, are deposited by Liddy into the bank account of Bernard Barker; those checks will later prove invaluable in proving the connections between CREEP and the illegal activities of Nixon's "plumbers." The $25,000 check is from Kenneth Dahlberg, the campaign's midwestern head of operations. (Chronology of Watergate Crisis, David Fremon)
- January 25: President Nixon announces a proposed eight point peace plan for Vietnam and also reveals that Kissinger has been secretly negotiating with the North Vietnamese. However, Hanoi rejects Nixon's peace overture. (Vietnam War Timeline)
- February 21-28: Nixon visits China and meets with Mao Zedong and Prime Minister Zhou Enlai to forge new diplomatic relations with the Communist nation. Nixon's visit causes great concern in Hanoi that their wartime ally China might be inclined to agree to an unfavorable settlement of the war to improve Chinese relations with the US. (Vietnam War Timeline)
- March 23: The US stages a boycott of the Paris peace talks as President Nixon accuses Hanoi of refusing to "negotiate seriously." (Vietnam War Timeline)
- March-September: The Eastertide Offensive occurs as 200,000 North Vietnamese soldiers under the command of General Giap wage an all-out attempt to conquer South Vietnam. The offensive is a tremendous gamble by Giap and is undertaken as a result of US troop withdrawal, the strength of the anti-war movement in America likely preventing a US retaliatory response, and the poor performance of South Vietnam's Army during Operation Lam Son 719 in 1971. Giap's immediate strategy involves the capture of Quang Tri in the northern part of South Vietnam, Kontum in the mid section, and An Loc in the south. North Vietnam's Communist leaders also hope a successful offensive will harm Richard Nixon politically during this presidential election year in America, much as President Lyndon Johnson had suffered as a result of the 1968 Tet Offensive. The Communists believe Nixon's removal would disrupt American aid to South Vietnam. (Vietnam War Timeline)
- April: Before the Presidential elections, former Bush business partner Neil Liedtke raises $700,000 in anonymous contributions for the Nixon re-election effort. Liedtke delivers the money one day before such contributions become illegal. Liedtke later claims he raised the money as a favor to Bush. (Bushwatch)
- April 4: In response to Eastertide, Nixon authorizes a massive bombing campaign targeting all NVA troops invading South Vietnam along with B-52 air strikes against North Vietnam. "The b*stards have never been bombed like they're going to be bombed this time," Nixon privately declares. (Vietnam War Timeline)
- April 16: The US Air Force announces that it is introducing substance abuse tests into its mandatory medical exams. Coincidentally, this is the day of George W. Bush's last flight as an Air National Guardsman. According to military records, this is the last day that George W. Bush is paid for serving in the National Guard. (Bush-Kerry Timeline, Ian Williams)
- April 22: Vietnam veteran John Kerry, fresh from duty and a founding member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, speaks to Congress while wearing his combat fatigues and array of medals (a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts). He says, in part, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? This administration has done us the ultimate dishonor. They have attempted to disown us and the sacrifices we made for this country." In response to Kerry's testimony and his burgeoning political career, President Nixon issues an order: "Destroy the young demagogue." Nixon's attempts to tar Kerry with accusations of unpatriotic behavior, falsifying his military record, and other smears are unsuccessful, though they will be repeated in the 2004 presidential campaign. (Guardian)
George W. Bush goes AWOL
- May: George W. Bush, stationed at Ellington AFB in Texas, only accumulates 22 flight duty days, over a third short of the 36 he is required to put in. The last time he flew a jet was on April 16, 1972 (though he is noted for using an F-102 to shuttle tropical plants, possibly marijuana, to Florida). Bush "clears" Ellington on May 15, and never reports for further assigned duty. Instead of fulfilling his duty, he leaves in May for Alabama to work on the re-election campaign of family friend Senator Winton Blount (see below), and requests a transfer to the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron, a small, inactive postal Reserve unit in Montgomery, Alabama. (The 9921's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Reese Bracken, later tells the Boston Globe, "We met just one weeknight a month. We were only a postal unit. We had no airplanes. We had no pilots. We had no nothing." Bracken's statement makes it hard to understand why Bush would be an appropriate addition to the unit. The TANG personnel director at the time, Colonel Albert Lloyd, later says he is "mystified" why Bush's superiors would approve such a request.) Though the transfer request is approved by the unit commander despite the extreme unusualness of a request by a trainee pilot to a non-flight unit, no records exist that Bush ever reported for duty. After his transfer request is overruled in July, Bush will remain in Alabama instead of reporting back to Ellington AFB as ordered. In his autobiography, he claims, "I continued flying with my unit for the next several years." This is a lie. Later allegations that Bush crashed a plane while flying drunk cannot be confirmed. (AWOLBush, Mother Jones, UggaBugga, Protalion, Democrats.com, Kevin Phillips, Ian Williams)
- May: George W. Bush leaves his National Guard post to work in Montgomery, Alabama, on the campaign of family friend Winton Blount, a politician running against Democrat John Sparkman. The 26-year old Bush is remembered by fellow campaigners as routinely coming in to work at noon or afterwards, propping his cowboy boots on a desk and bragging about how much he drank the night before. They also remember Bush's stories about how the New Haven, Connecticut police always let him go, after he told them his name, when they stopped him "all the time" for driving drunk as a student at Yale in the late 1960s. Bush told this story to others working in the campaign "what seemed like a hundred times," says Blount's nephew C. Murphy Archibald, now an attorney in Charlotte, NC, who also worked on the Blount campaign and said he had "vivid memories" of that time. "He would laugh uproariously as though there was something funny about this. To me, that was pretty memorable, because here he is, a number of years out of college, talking about this to people he doesn't know," Archibald says. "He just struck me as a guy who really had an idea of himself as very much a child of privilege, that he wasn't operating by the same rules." Bush earned the nickname "the Texas Souffle" from his colleagues because, according to Archibald, he "looked good on the outside but was full of hot air." Archibald characterizes Bush as a "loudmouth" who "was good at schmoozing the county chairs, but there wasn't a lot of followup."
- Another worker recalls Bush rolling into Blount headquarters around lunchtime most days, bragging about his late-night exploits and big-time political connections. Others remember him as having a taste for beer and Jim Beam whiskey, and often sneaking out to smoke marijuana in the back yard or snort cocaine in the bathroom. For a time, Bush lived in a small cottage owned by the Smith family, and, according to the family, was less than a welcome guest: "He was just a rich kid who had no respect for other people's possessions," says Mary Smith, whose family found damaged walls, broken furnishings and a chandelier destroyed after Bush left the house. A bill sent to collect the damages went unpaid, the family says. Bush is apparently involved in a number of political "dirty tricks" employed by the Blount campaign against Sparkman, including the promotion of a doctored radio tape that misrepresents Sparkman's stand on busing minority children to whites-only schools. Though the tactics are effective, towards the end of the campaign, Blount removes Bush from most of his campaign duties, finding that the young Texan is more interested in drinking, doing drugs, and chasing women than performing his job. Blount goes on to lose the election, though his company will prosper, possibly aided by its connections to the Bush family; in the 1980s, Blount International wins a $2 billion contract for the King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and is one of the major subcontractors under Halliburton in the Iraq reconstruction of 2003 and beyond. (Progressive Southerner, New York Daily News, Birmingham News, Ian Williams)
- May 2: FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover dies. Hoover, a formidable and combative figure in political circles who had headed the FBI since 1924, was known for his exhaustive files on just about everyone of importance, and his willingness to use those files for political blackmail. (Much of these files are destroyed by Hoover's secretary, Helen Gandy, after his death.) Hoover's death is quite untimely for the embattled Nixon administration, who would have been able to use Hoover to help rein in the FBI investigation of his re-election campaign's raft of illegal activities; as it stands, new FBI director L. Patrick Gray, a Nixon loyalist, is far less powerful than the daunting Hoover, and less able to help the Nixon campaign than Hoover presumably would have been. Rumors and information about Hoover's closet homosexuality, and his relationship with his chief aide Clyde Tolson, do not surface until years after Hoover's death. Rumors about the Chicago Mafia blackmailing Hoover with photos of him dressed in women's clothing abound to this day, but few, if any, such photos have been proven to be real. (Wikipedia)
- May 4: The US and South Vietnam suspend participation in the Paris peace talks indefinitely. (Vietnam War Timeline)
- May 8: In response to the ongoing NVA Eastertide Offensive, Nixon announces Operation Linebacker I, the mining of North Vietnam's harbors along with intensified bombing of roads, bridges, and oil facilities. The announcement brings international condemnation of the U.S. and ignites more anti-war protests in America. During an air strike conducted by South Vietnamese pilots, napalm bombs are accidentally dropped on South Vietnamese civilians, including children. Filmed footage and a still photo of a badly burned nude girl fleeing the destruction of her hamlet becomes yet another enduring image of the war. (Vietnam War Timeline)
- May 15: Third-party segregationist candidate George Wallace is permanently crippled by an assassination attempt by lone gunman Arthur Bremer. Wallace was considered a serious problem for the Nixon campaign, with Wallace expected to split key Southern votes away from Nixon and possibly throwing the election to the Democrats. With Wallace, who would be paralyzed from the waist down, out of the campaign, a key roadblock to Nixon's re-election is now removed. Conspiracy theories about the Wallace shooting abound, but the only possible witness able to shed any light on Bremer's assassination attempt, Bremer's friend Dennis Cassini, is soon found dead of a heroin overdose, locked inside the trunk of his car. Ironically, Bremer is the inspiration of the character Travis Bickle from the movie Taxi Driver; the Bickle character helped inspire John Hinckley to attempt to assassinate Ronald Reagan. (Wikipedia, David Fremon)
- May 22 - 30: President Nixon visits the Soviet Union and meets with Leonid Brezhnev to forge new diplomatic relations with the USSR. Nixon's visit causes great concern in Hanoi that their Soviet ally might be inclined to agree to an unfavorable settlement of the war to improve Soviet relations with the US. (Vietnam War Timeline)
- June 1: Iraq nationalizes its oil industry, creating the Iraq Petroleum Company and wresting some control from American and British corporations. The US immediately shifts its support away from Iraq and towards Iran, labeling Hussein "unreliable." Iraq is placed on the US list of countries supporting terrorism, and the US begins arming the Iraqi Kurds. (History Lesson: Middle East Timeline, BBC, A Timeline of Oil and Violence)
Break-in of Democratic headquarters by Nixon operatives
- June 17: A security guard at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC notices a side door taped open; the police are called to investigate around 2 a.m. Inside the Watergate, five Republican operatives -- Bernard Barker, a Cuban exile living in Miami, fellow Cuban exiles Virgilio Gonzalez (an accomplished locksmith) and Eugenio Martinez, soldier of fortune Frank Sturgis, and former CIA operative James McCord -- have broken into Democratic Party headquarters and are placing wiretaps on phones, photographing documents, and burglarizing materials. This is a follow-up visit to the Democrats' HQ; three weeks before, McCord botched an attempt to wiretap the Democrats' phones. Lookout Alfred Baldwin, a former FBI agent, fails to spot the police, who arrive in an unmarked car; the five burglars' handlers, G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt, awaiting news over walkie-talkies in a hotel room elsewhere in the building, are notified of trouble when Baldwin reports seeing a number of people running through the building, but are unable to contact Barker until the police burst into the Democrats' offices and arrest the five.
- Liddy and Hunt leave quickly before Barker, who has a key to their hotel room, can lead the police to them. Baldwin drives McCord's van, which is full of surveillance equipment, to McCord's home in suburban Virginia; McCord's wife drives Baldwin back to his car, and Baldwin drives his own car to his home in Connecticut. Hunt tells Liddy to go find himself an alibi, then Hunt returns to the White House, stuffs his burglary equipment into his office safe, removes $10,000 in cash, and goes home. The five arrested burglars pose some questions for the DC police -- they are well-dressed, middle-aged men, hardly your garden-variety burglars, and carry an odd assortment of paraphenelia, including burglary tools, a wig, tear gas, and walkie-talkies. They are also carrying 13 one-hundred dollar bills with consecutive serial numbers, cash later traced to Barker's Miami bank account. Barker is also carrying a check signed by Hunt. Address books on Martinez and Barker both contain entries for Hunt's White House office. The police are also puzzled when attorney Douglas Caddy comes to bail the five out; none of the burglars had called anyone to post their bail. Most damning, McCord is recognized that day by a policeman in court as a security coordinator for the Nixon re-election committee; further investigation finds that all five have connections to the Nixon campaign. The White House dismisses the operation as a "third-rate burglary" and denies any connection, a denial that is later proven untrue. (Watergate Time Line, Chronology of Watergate Crisis, David Fremon)
- June 17: Later that morning, Liddy goes to his office at CREEP, asks staff member Robert Odle how to operate the paper shredder, and spends the rest of the morning shredding documents, hundred-dollar bills, and even hotel soap wrappers. Anything Liddy felt that was incriminating went into the shredder. CREEP deputy director Jeb Magruder is furious with Liddy for bringing along McCord; Recently retired attorney general Mitchell, now working with CREEP, attempts to cover for the campaign by lying to the press, telling them that McCord was not working with CREEP authorization. New attorney general Richard Kleindeinst refuses a request from Mitchell to have McCord released, and instructs his office to ensure that the burglars get no special treatment. (David Fremon)
- June 18 - on: "No one ever considered that there would not be a coverup," said CREEP deputy director Jeb Magruder afterwards. In the days following the Watergate break-in, top White House officials met numerous times to try to contain the damage and keep information about the break-in and other, worse activities from going public. Magruder, his boss John Mitchell, chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, domestic advisor John Ehrlichman, White House counsels Charles Colson and John Dean, CREEP counsel G. Gordon Liddy, Mitchell advisor Frederick LaRue, and Haldeman assistant Gordon Strachan were among those who knew of worse violations than the press was reporting. Many of them were actively involved in the illegalities. (David Fremon)
- June 19: Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward is intrigued by the notations in the address book of two of the Watergate burglars, and after tracking down Howard Hunt at a public relations firm, asks Hunt over the phone why his phone number would be in two of the burglars' address book. Hunt exclaims, "Good God!" then snaps, "I have no comment" and hangs up. A week later, fellow Post reporter Carl Bernstein traces funds from Bernard Barker's account back to the Nixon campaign. Woodward and Bernstein decide to work together instead of in parallel, and eventually file over 200 stories about the so-called "Watergate" scandal. Woodward's deep background source, nicknamed "Deep Throat," becomes a legend in the field; Woodward has never revealed his identity. (David Fremon)
Investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
- June 20: Nixon aides John Ehrlichman and John Dean give the contents of an office safe to new FBI director Patrick Gray for safekeeping. The contents include the phony cables alleging the assassination of Vietnamese prime minister Diem by JFK, material damaging to Democratic candidate Edward Kennedy, files on Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, and other documents showing the Nixon campaign's illegal and unethical activities. The two White House aides tell Gray that the materials should "never see the light of day," and Gray agrees to keep them hidden; Gray thus becomes an unwitting accomplice in the Watergate coverup. (David Fremon)
- July 14: After Republicans coverty destroy the presidential chances of both Edmund Muskie and Edward Kennedy, the beleagured Democrats choose decorated World War II veteran Senator George McGovern as their presidential nominee. McGovern, an outspoken critic of the war, advocates "immediate and complete withdrawal" from Vietnam. The Republicans mischaracterize McGovern's opposition to the war as a wish to "capitulate" to North Vietnam. (Vietnam War Timeline)
- July 18: During a visit to Hanoi, actress Jane Fonda broadcasts anti-war messages via Hanoi Radio. Fonda's actions will earn her the eternal enmity of many US conservatives and military supporters (and become an endless source of embarrassment for the vast majority of liberals who are against the war but do not support the North Vietnamese), and the nickname "Hanoi Jane." (Vietnam War Timeline)
- June 23: In a meeting with chief aide Haldeman, Nixon is informed about the connections between the Watergate burglary and his re-election campaign. (It is quite possible that Nixon knew of the burglary and other illegal activities from the outset, but this is the first documented evidence of such.) Haldeman tells Nixon that the FBI has already traced money from burglar Bernard Barker back to the campaign; with new FBI director Gray perceived as a weak reed, Nixon decides to use the CIA to persuade the FBI to withdraw. The FBI and CIA have a longstanding agreement not to interfere in one another's investigations; Haldeman has the CIA's deputy director, Vernon Walters, inform Gray that the CIA is involved in the Watergate investigation, and the FBI obligingly backs off. (David Fremon)
- July 6: George W. Bush either misses his mandatory physical, or fails it and refuses to retake it (his military records have been sealed to the public). He loses his wings, and is suspended and grounded. (He later claims that he does not fly any longer because his new unit doesn't have the same planes that he was used to flying.) Normal military procedure requires the convening of a Flight Inquiry Board (or Flight Evaluation Board), but no such board of inquiry is ever convened (see below). His election campaign will try to explain it during the latter part of 2000 by first saying that his family physician was unable to conduct the physical; when this was debunked by noting that military doctors, not family doctors, conduct these exams, the campaign will change its story and say that Bush skipped his physical because he decided he would no longer fly. Says one observer, "This is a unique approach to military service when the enlistee gets to 'decide' his future duties." (Others wonder why the supposedly gung-ho Bush didn't take advantage of his posting to Dannelly AFB, home for the new F-4 Phantom, to train to fly the new fighter jet instead of sticking with his obsolete F-102.)
- Speculation has long been widespread that one reason Bush was not interested in taking his physical was because of the random drug testing element of the procedure; Bush has long been rumored to have had a serious cocaine abuse problem during these years. Air Force regulations in effect at the time mandated that Bush should have prompted an investigation by his commander, a written acknowledgement by Bush, and perhaps a written report to senior Air Force officials. None of these actions took place. In 2004, two retired National Guard generals will express their surprise that Bush would forgo a required annual flight physical and take no apparent steps to rectify the problem and return to flying. "There is no excuse for that. Aviators just don't miss their flight physicals," says Major General Paul Weaver, who will retire in 2002 as the Pentagon's director of the Air National Guard. Brigadier General David McGinnis, a former top aide to the assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, adds that Bush's failure to remain on flying status amounts to a violation of the signed pledge by Bush that he would fly for at least five years after he completed flight school in November 1969. "Failure to take your flight physical is like a failure to show up for duty," McGinnis says. "It is an obligation you can't blow off." Weaver says that in light of Bush's reported light duty load between May 1972 and May 1973, he doubts Bush would have been proficient enough to return to the F-102 cockpit. "I would not have let him near the airplane," he says.
- McGinnis says he, too, thought it possible that Bush's superiors considered him a liability, so they decided "to get him off the books, make his father happy, and hope no one would notice." McGinnis insists there should have been an investigation and a report. "If it didn't happen, that shows how far they were willing to stretch the rules to accommodate" Bush and his powerful family. Author James Moore points out that the phrase "failure to accomplish" his physical could possibly mean that he indeed took the physical, and failed it. A number of Guardsmen were given honorable discharges in similar manners to the one Bush will eventually secure when their physicals turned up indications of drug usage. However, no records can be found to substantiate or debunk this possibility. (AWOLBush, Mother Jones, Boston Globe, UggaBugga, Ian Williams)
- July 31: The Air Force Reserve Center overrules George W. Bush's May transfer approval to the tiny postal unit in Alabama, and returns his application as "ineligible for assignment in the Air Reserve Squadron." (Ian Williams)
- August 19 - 24: George H.W. Bush becomes chairman of the Republican National Committee during the Republican national convention, which overwhelmingly nominates Richard Nixon for a second term as president. Bush is accompanied by his eldest son, George W. Bush. (Ian Williams)
- August 23: The last US combat troops depart Vietnam. (Vietnam War Timeline)
Powell memo sparks conservative revolution
- August 23: Future Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell writes a document known as the "Powell memo" whose ideas and recommendations help to spark the conservative revolution that will reshape American politics and society for generations to come. The document is a private memo from Powell to his friend Eugene Sydnor, Jr., the Director of the US Chamber of Commerce. The memo does not become public until well after Powell's confirmation, though it is leaked to liberal columnist Jack Anderson, who cites it as reason to doubt Powell's legal objectivity. Anderson cautions that Powell "might use his position on the Supreme Court to put his ideas into practice...in behalf of business interests."
- Anderson was far too narrow in his assessment of the document. Sydnor's Chamber of Commerce and corporate activists will take Powell's strategic advice to heart, and begin building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of the next quarter-century and beyond. The memo influences, or directly inspires, the creation of, among other conservative organizations, the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and others. Their long-term focus began paying off in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration's corporate-friendly philosophy, a philosophy taken to extremes by the second Bush administration. Most notable about these institutions is their focus on education, shifting values, and movement-building -- a focus shared by liberals, though with fundamentally different goals. The great difference is that while liberals and progressives will work in ad hoc and haphazard fashions to achieve their goals, often working at cross-purposes with one another or preferring to focus on single issues and competing with one another for funds and legislation for their particular issue, conservatives will largely work together to build a conservative, corporate-friendly infrastructure designed to seize control of the American political system on local, state, and federal levels.
- Powell's memo reads, in part, "strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations. He provides detailed recommendations on everything from reforming university faculties to reshaping the American media, seizing control of the courts, and drastically increasing the involvement of businesses and corporations in American politics. The entire text of the memo is available by clicking on the provided link. (ReclaimDemocracy)
- August 29: In a press conference, Nixon denies that anyone in the White House had anything to do with the Watergate burglary. He tells the American people, "What really hurts in matters of this sort is not the fact that they occur because overzealous people in campaigns do things that are wrong. What really hurts is if you try to cover it up." (David Fremon)
- September: The Watergate burglars are paid $220,000 from Nixon's re-election campaign funds to keep quiet about the break-in. (Chronology of Watergate Crisis)
Arab terror bombings disrupt Munich Olympics
- September 5: Five Arab terrorists enter the athletes' compound in the Munich Olympic site. They join up with three comrades already inside and begin murdering Israeli athletes. They kill two, take nine others hostage, identify themselves as Palestinian Arabs, and demand the release of 234 Arab prisoners in Israel and two in Germany. Negotiations proceed to the point where the terrorists and their hostages board helicopters at the NATO air base at Firstenfeldbruck. German security plans to have sharpshooters kill the terrorists without harming the hostages fails; a bloody firefight ensues, resulting in the deaths of all nine hostages, five of the terrorists, and a German policeman. On October 29, a Lufthansa jet is hijacked by Palestinian terrorists who demand that the Munich killers be released; the Germans capitulate and the imprisoned terrorists are freed. The terrorists are members of Yassir Arafat's Fatah organization, though they call themselves "Black September" in order to preserve Fatah's international reputation. (Black September, a radical Palestinian group founded in response to the Israeli shelling of refugee camps in Amman, is also responsible for the earlier murder of Jordanian Prime Minister Wasfi al-Tal, who led the expulsion of Palestinians from Jordan.) This results in the Israelis mounting an aggressive counter-terrorism campaign called "Wrath of God," which sees the assassination of twelve Arab terrorists connected with the Olympic massacre. Abu Daoud, the mastermind of the massacre, is still at large. (Palestine Facts, Dan Cohn-Sherbok)
One of the terrorists who murdered Israeli athletes in Munich
- September 5: The Air Forces revokes George W. Bush's flight status as of August 1 because of his failure to complete his required medical exam. Instead of being brought before a board of inquiry for his failure to take a physical and subsequent suspension, Bush's request for a transfer to perform "equivalent duty" at the 187th TAC Recon Group based in Montgomery, Alabama, is approved. As reported above, Bush never reports for duty: "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of report," writes his commanding officer. Though during the 2000 campaign Bush insisted that he had "fulfilled his obligations," no record exists of his ever reporting for duty. Even Bush's own campaign team was unable to find any such records. Bush's commanding officer in Alabama, Gen. William Turnipseed, has declared that Bush never reported for duty. On September 29, his suspension from flight duties is confirmed. By mid-October, Bush's status should have gone from AWOL (absent without leave) to desertion. Bush will later say that one lesson he learned from his stint in the National Guard is "There was a sense of shared responsibility.... The responsibility to show up and do your job." In July 2000, he tells the New York Times regarding his support for the Vietnam War, "My first impulse and first inclination was to support the country." It is hard to see how deserting your post is "supporting your country." Under Air National Guard rules at the time, Bush could have been subject to immediate induction into the military and a posting to Vietnam. This does not happen.
- Among the number of contradictory stories told by Bush and his representatives about why he missed his physical is the claim that he was in Alabama and would have had to go to Houston to have his personal physician conduct the physical, a blatant lie; only military doctors were authorized to perform such physicals, and there was one available at Dannelly Air Force Base.
- During the 2000 campaign, when Bush insists he performed duty in Alabama, a group of Vietnam veterans will post a $3,500 reward for anyone who can prove they served with Bush in Alabama; the reward remains uncollected. The Bush campaign did locate the 187th Tactical Recon Group's flight safety officer, retired Lieutenant Colonel John Calhoun, who stepped up to aver that he remembers serving with Bush in Alabama; unfortunately, Calhoun, a staunch Republican, claims to have seen Bush at his post several times between May and October -- an impossibity, since Bush didn't even put in for a transfer to the post until September. (AWOLBush, Mother Jones, Consortium News, UggaBugga, Protalion, Bush-Kerry Timeline, Ian Williams)
- September 15: A Washington DC grand jury hands down indictments in the Watergate burglary. The five burglars along with Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy are indicted; the Nixon campaign's deputy director Magruder escapes indictment by lying under oath. The decision has been made in the White House to allow the 7 indictees, and possibly White House aide John Dean, to take the fall for the burglaries. Nixon congratulates Dean on containing the damage, but Dean warns that the story might not stay buried. Nixon refuses to recognize the reality that the coverup is already falling apart; John Mitchell resigned as head of CREEP on July 1, and Watergate lookout Alfred Baldwin has already accepted an immunity agreement in return for his testimony. Money, too, is becoming an issue, with the legal fees and expenses for the 7 indictees spiraling towards a million dollars; Haldeman begins paying out monies from an illegal slush fund kept over from previous elections. The money is handled by Hunt's wife Dorothy; on December 8, Mrs. Hunt will die in a plane crash. $10,000 in hundred-dollar bills is found on her body. Though no official explanation is ever given, the assumption is that the cash is either for "hush money" or legal expenses for the burglars. (David Fremon)
- September 15: George W. Bush is formally admitted to the Alabama Air National Guard and is directed to report directly to Lieutenant Colonel William Turnipseed. Turnipseed says he has never met Bush and knows that Bush never joined his unit. (Ian Williams)
- September 29: George W. Bush is formally suspended as a pilot for his failure to take his annual physical, and is ordered to present himself to a board of inquiry. He fails to do so. In addition, his unit commander is ordered to convene a Flight Evaluation Board to find out why Bush is no longer flying; the commander also fails to do so. Bush's commander is Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian, a family friend who has written numerous glowing recommendations for Bush. (Ian Williams)
- October 8: The long-standing diplomatic stalemate between Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho finally ends as both sides agree to major concessions. The US will allow North Vietnamese troops already in South Vietnam to remain there, while North Vietnam drops its demand for the removal of South Vietnam's President Thieu and the dissolution of his government. Although Kissinger's staff members privately express concerns over allowing NVA troops to remain in the South, Kissinger rebuffs them, saying, "I want to end this war before the election." (Vietnam War Timeline)
- October 10: The Washington Post breaks the story that the Watergate burglary is merely one example of an overarching campaign of illegal spying and sabotage conducted from the White House, with the aim of securing Nixon's re-election. Probably the most effective sabotage effected by the Nixon campaign was the scuttling of Democrat Edmund Muskie's bid for the nomination, brought about by the release of the "Canuck Letter," a document supposedly authored by Muskie that contained numerous racial slurs. The letter was actually written by members of the Nixon campaign. (Watergate Time Line)
- October 10: The Supreme Court hears further arguments in the Roe v. Wade abortion case. The case drags on through December, when an opinion authored by Harry Blackmun and revised by other justices seems to gain favor with a majority of justices. Blackmun's opinion mandates that abortions be declared legal in the first trimester of a woman's pregnancy, with legal restrictions on abortions during the second and especially the third trimester, a compromise that appears to satisfy Chief Justice Burger. Justices Byron White and William Rehnquist intend to dissent from the majority; Justices William Douglas, William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall, Potter Stewart, and Lewis Powell side with Blackmun. But Burger refuses to commit himself, partially in deference to Richard Nixon, who opposes abortion. Stewart finally issues an ultimatum, demanding that Burger either make a decision or step aside and allow the decision to be made without him. The Court meets to render its final verdict in January 1973. (D.J. Herda)
- October 22: Operation Linebacker I ends. US warplanes flew 40,000 sorties and dropped over 125,000 tons of bombs during the bombing campaign which effectively disrupted North Vietnam's Eastertide Offensive. During the failed offensive, the North suffered an estimated 100,000 military casualties and lost half its tanks and artillery. The leader of the offensive, legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap, the victor at Dien Bien Phu, was then quietly ousted in favor of his deputy, General Van Tien Dung. 40,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died stopping the offensive, in the heaviest fighting of the entire war. (Vietnam War Timeline)
- October 26: Radio Hanoi reveals terms of the peace proposal and accuses the US of attempting to sabotage the settlement. At the White House, now a week before the presidential election, Henry Kissinger holds a press briefing and declares, "We believe that peace is at hand. We believe that an agreement is in sight." (Vietnam War Timeline)
- November - December 1972: Although records of George W. Bush's activities during this period are spotty, it is established that he accosts his father and challenges him to a fistfight after driving drunk through the streets of Washington and crashing his car into a garbage can, dragging the can home with him under the car. Bush, now 24, had taken his 16-year old brother Marvin out drinking, and after weaving his way home, is called down by his father, not only for driving drunk but for putting his underage brother at risk. A drunken, combative Bush spits back at his father, "I hear you're looking for me. You wanna go mano a mano right here?" The situation is defused by brother Jeb, who distracts both father and son with the news that George W. has been accepted to Harvard Business School. According to George W. Bush's own accounts, which are anything but reliable, he returns to Texas shortly thereafter and requests to work at PULL (Professionals United for Leadership League), a minority outreach program chaired by his father. (Wikipedia, Ian Williams)
Nixon wins re-election
- November 7: Nixon wins re-election in a landslide over George McGovern, winning 49 of 50 states. One of his most effective campaign strategies is authored by political operative Pat Buchanan, who orchestrates a smear campaign against McGovern as an "antiwar liberal" bent on betraying his country. McGovern, a decorated World War II veteran, sticks to his long-term principle of not using his military service as a campaign prop, and resultingly is hammered by the charges. Buchanan himself avoided Vietnam service by claiming a bad knee, though his habit of running five miles a day on that same knee gives the lie to the claim. (Watergate Time Line, Chronology of Watergate Crisis, Joe Conason)
- November: After winning re-election, Nixon names White House aide Donald Rumsfeld as ambassador to the North American Treaty Organization. He has advised the ambitious Rumsfeld to gain some foreign policy experience, and the new position transforms Rumsfeld's career. The more Rumsfeld batters against traditionally deliberate, courteous European diplomacy, the more hawkish and aggressive he becomes. The position keeps Rumsfeld out of Washington during Watergate, and probably saves his career from being tarred with his association with Nixon. (PBS)
- November 30: American troop withdrawal from Vietnam is completed, although there are still 16,000 Army advisors and administrators remaining to assist South Vietnam's military forces. (Vietnam War Timeline)
- December 13: In Paris, peace negotiations between Kissinger and Le Duc Tho collapse after Kissinger presents a list of 69 changes demanded by President Thieu. President Nixon now issues an ultimatum to North Vietnam that serious negotiations must resume within 72 hours. Hanoi does not respond. As a result, Nixon orders Operation Linebacker II, eleven days and nights of maximum force bombing against military targets in Hanoi by B-52 bombers. (Vietnam War Timeline)
- December 18: Operation Linebacker II begins. The so called "Christmas bombings" of Hanoi and North Vietnam are widely denounced by American politicians, the media, and various world leaders including the Pope. North Vietnamese filmed footage of civilian casualties further fuels the outrage. In addition, a few downed B-52 pilots make public statements in North Vietnam against the bombing. On December 24, famed entertainer Bob Hope makes the last of 9 consecutive Christmas appearances for the troops in Saigon. On December 28, the US agrees to stop the bombings in return for the North Vietnamese to resume peace talks. (Vietnam War Timeline, Chronology of US-Vietnam Relations)
- December 23: A massive earthquake levels Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. Under cover of earthquake relief, the US sends Army Rangers into Nicaragua to quash the fledgling Sandinista rebellion, but the Rangers are unsuccessful. (Larry Kolb)