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Nixon on Thompson: Dumb as Hell


The Mule

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The following is from todays Buffalo News....I find it funny!

linked-image Associated Press Fred Thompson was on the Senate Watergate Committee during the scandal. Click to view a larger picture

Tapes show Thompson was willing Nixon ally during Watergate

By Joan Lowy - ASSOCIATED PRESS

Updated: 07/08/07 6:47 AM

WASHINGTON — Fred Thompson gained an image as a tough-minded investigative counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee. Yet then-President Richard M. Nixon and his top aides viewed the fellow Republican as a willing, if not too bright, ally, according to White House tapes.

Thompson, now preparing a bid for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, won fame in 1973 for asking a committee witness the bombshell question that revealed Nixon had installed hidden listening devices and taping equipment in the Oval Office.

Those tapes show Thompson played a behind-the-scenes role that was very different from his public image three decades ago. He comes across as a partisan willing to cooperate with the Nixon White House’s effort to discredit the committee’s star witness.

It was Thompson who tipped off the White House that the Senate panel knew about the tapes. Those tapes eventually cinched Nixon’s downfall in the scandal resulting from the break-in at Democratic headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington and the subsequent cover-up.

Thompson, then 30, was appointed counsel by his political mentor, then-Tennessee Sen. Howard Baker, the top Republican on the Senate investigative committee. Thompson had been an assistant U.S. attorney in Nashville, Tenn., and had managed Baker’s re-election campaign.

Nixon was disappointed with the selection of Thompson, whom he called “dumb as hell.” The president did not think Thompson was skilled enough to interrogate unfriendly witnesses and would be outsmarted by the committee’s Democratic counsel.

This assessment comes from audio tapes of White House conversations recently reviewed by the Associated Press at the National Archives in College Park, Md., and transcripts of those discussions that are published in “Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes,” by historian Stanley Kutler.

Baker and Thompson presented themselves as dedicated to uncovering the truth. But Baker had secret meetings and conversations with Nixon and his top aides, while Thompson worked cooperatively with the White House and accepted coaching from Nixon’s lawyer, J. Fred Buzhardt, the tapes and transcripts show.

“We’ve got a pretty good rapport with Fred Thompson,” Buzhardt told Nixon in an Oval Office meeting on June 6, 1973. The meeting included a discussion of former White House counsel John Dean’s upcoming testimony.

Dean, the committee’s star witness, had agreed to tell what he knew about the break-in and cover-up if he were granted immunity against anything incriminating he might say.

Nixon expressed concern that Thompson was not “very smart.”

“Not extremely so,” Buzhardt said.

“But he’s friendly,” Nixon said.

“But he’s friendly,” Buzhardt agreed. “We are hoping, though, to work with Thompson and prepare him, if Dean does appear next week, to do a very thorough cross-examination.”

Five days later, Buzhardt reported to Nixon that he had primed Thompson for the Dean cross-examination.

“I found Thompson most cooperative, feeling more Republican every day,” Buzhardt said. “Uh, perfectly prepared to assist in really doing a cross-examination.”

Later , Buzhardt said Thompson was “willing to go, you know, pretty much the distance now. And he said he realized his responsibility was going to have be as a Republican increasingly.”

Thompson, who declined comment for this article, described himself in his book, “At That Point in Time,” published in 1975, as a Nixon administration “loyalist” who struggled with his role as minority counsel. “I would try to walk a fine line between a good-faith pursuit of the investigation and a good-faith attempt to insure balance and fairness,” Thompson wrote.

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