Dole to Nixon After Watergate: No Big Deal Outside the BeltwayMIKE FEINSILBER , Associated Press
Dec. 19, 1995 6:01 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bob Dole guessed wrong about Watergate. He thought it would all blow over and, according to newly opened papers of Richard Nixon, sought a private meeting with the president ``to offer his personal encouragement.''
That was on May 22, 1973. Less than a month earlier, Nixon, attempting to save his presidency, threw overboard White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman and domestic adviser John D. Ehrlichman, calling them ``two of the finest public servants it has been my privilege to know.'' He also went on television to declare, ``There can be no whitewash at the White House.''
Nixon resigned 15 months later.
Among thousands of papers opened to the public for the first time Tuesday by the National Archives, where they were sent after Congress passed a law taking possession of the papers from Nixon, were others that shed light on the role played by Dole, then a young senator and now the front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
In January 1973, Dole had been forced out as chairman of the Republican National Committee and replaced by George Bush, who preferred a diplomatic job instead.
But Dole remained loyal to Nixon.
Nixon's congressional liaison, William E. Timmons, sent Nixon a memo laying the ground for a meeting between the Kansas senator and the president.
``Dole wants to see you alone for a few minutes,'' it read, the ``alone'' underlined. ``He considers himself a loyal, old friend and wants to offer his personal encouragement. Bob believes Watergate is not nearly as big an issue outside Washington.''
Another memo, dated Feb. 15, 1971, chastised Dole for being too loyal _ and for criticizing Walter Cronkite, the CBS anchorman who had such a strong following that there was occasional talk of him as a Democratic presidential candidate.
Dwight Chapin, Nixon's appointments secretary, wrote the president's political adviser, Lyn Nofziger. He noted that Dole, in attacking television coverage of the Republican Party, had said, ``Walter Cronkite can't even pronounce Republicans.''
``This is strictly my own feeling,'' Chapin wrote. ``However, taking on Walter Cronkite cannot do us any good whatsoever. It is like attacking the Lord himself.''
``I can see the merit in keeping the heat on the networks, but I think to take on an individual such as Cronkite may be a mistake,'' Chapin added.
The files give no indication whether Dole was given the message. At the time, the networks were under broad administration attack. Vice President Spiro T. Agnew accused CBS of ``propagandistic manipulation.''
Dole's departure as GOP national chairman in 1973 followed an election in which the GOP, while re-electing Nixon by a landslide, failed to win control of either the Senate or the House.
Nixon may have been dissatisfied with his chairman, but he did not let on in a Jan. 31, 1973 letter to Dole.
``You did a splendid job,'' Nixon wrote, adding: ``From state to state you brought support and encouragement to countless voters, and you returned to us a deeper understanding of their needs and aspirations.''
Nixon White House papers which mentioned others in the current GOP presidential race _ former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, commentator Pat Buchanan, Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar _ as well as Colin Powell and Ross Perot _ were also opened to the public, but they were mentioned only in routine correspondence.