Ron Rosenbaum: Why Hillary doesn't mention her work on Nixon's impeachment

Roundup: Media's Take

[Ron Rosenbaum is the author of The Shakespeare Wars and Explaining Hitler.]

... I'd always thought that her work on the Impeachment Committee was an unambiguously shining moment of her career: Hillary I enters politics. Even if, as I believe, the committee failed to find out the full truth of Nixon's Watergate crimes, the Big Truth (I'll get to that), she was a junior staffer, and any such failings surely weren't her fault. And even if the committee failed to find Nixon guilty of the primal crime of Watergate, ordering the break-in, the committee demonstrated that America was a nation in which a reigning president had to submit to the rule of law, where the commander in chief could be challenged and forced to leave office by constitutional means, not coups.

I covered the impeachment hearings to the bitter end when Nixon resigned in August 1974. (I was in the East Room of the White House when he "teared up" making his farewell before coptering off to exile.) I have no memory of seeing young Hillary Rodham in the hearing room, but I remember thinking at the time of the Impeachment Committee staff as heroic seekers of truth.

But Hillary's boss on the staff, Jerome Zeifman, asserts now that one reason she's downplayed her Impeachment Committee service is that she has something to hide.

He accuses her of "unethical" conduct, says that "Hillary … lied to me" and that she was a pawn in a Kennedy-orchestrated conspiracy to manipulate the impeachment hearings. And he claims he has a witness to corroborate this characterization:
"After President Nixon's resignation," Zeifman writes, "a young lawyer, who shared an office with Hillary, confided in me that he was dismayed by her erroneous legal opinions and efforts to deny Nixon representation by counsel—as well as an unwillingness to investigate Nixon. In my diary of August 12, 1974 I noted the following:

'John Labovitz apologized to me for the fact that months ago he and Hillary had lied to me' [to conceal rules changes and dilatory tactics]. Labovitz said, "That came from Yale." I said, "You mean Burke Marshall [Sen. Ted Kennedy's chief political strategist, with whom Hillary regularly consulted in violation of House rules]. Labovitz said, "Yes." His apology was significant to me, not because it was a revelation but because of his contrition.' "

The "dilatory tactics" Zeifman alleges were part of what he portrays as a Kennedy clan strategy to stretch out the impeachment hearings (which ended in August '74, when the so-called "smoking gun" tape—which revealed Nixon attempting to use the CIA to cover up a White House connection to the break-in—caused Nixon to lose even hard-core GOP loyalist support and resign). Zeifman claims the Kennedy strategy was to keep Richard Nixon in office so a liberal (perhaps a Kennedy) could run in 1976 against a damaged president Nixon rather than the relatively unblemished GOP Vice President Gerald Ford.

Zeifman claims that to implement this strategy, Hillary attempted to revise the procedural rules for the Impeachment Committee, potentially opening up divisive delays. Zeifman also asserts that a "second objective of the strategy of delay was to avoid a Senate impeachment trial, in which as a defense Nixon might assert that Kennedy had authorized far worse abuses of power than Nixon's effort to 'cover up' the Watergate burglary (which Nixon had not authorized or known about in advance). In short, the crimes of Kennedy included the use of the Mafia to attempt to assassinate Castro, as well as the successful assassinations of Diem in Vietnam and Lumumba in the Congo."...

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Per Fagereng - 2/18/2008

Ron Rosenbaum blames President Kennedy for the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Not true. Lumumba was killed January 17, 1961. I don't believe that Kennedy was inaugurated until January 20. At any rate, all the machinations leading up to the killing of Lumumba happened during the Eisenhower administration. In fact Eisenhower is reported as having given a verbal order to remove Lumumba.

Vernon Clayson - 2/17/2008

Mr. Sage jumped on the "running against a damaged president" as being in error and it was if taken at face value. It would have made more sense to say "running against a damaged president's record", which is always a factor. The Democrats of today, 2008, are running against what they allege to be George Bush's damaged presidency; in 2000 the Republicans were running against what they considered a damaged presidency, Bill Clintons, and, boy, was it ever. Again, this year, 2008, the Republicans are running against the same damaged Clinton presidency in that his co-president, wife Hillary, is demanding a return to the office, and no thinking person should want the return of the scandals and abuses in that eventuality.

Steven F. Sage - 2/17/2008

Rosenbaum writes:

“Zeifman claims the Kennedy strategy was to keep Richard Nixon in office so a liberal (perhaps a Kennedy) could run in 1976 against a damaged president Nixon rather than the relatively unblemished GOP Vice President Gerald Ford.”

This is bizarre. How could Zeifman (or the Kennedys) have been unaware of the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution, setting a two-term limit on election to the Presidency. Nixon had already been elected twice, in 1968, and again in 1972.

Or is it Ron Rosenbaum who is somehow unaware of these basics?

R.R. Hamilton - 2/16/2008

Mr. Rosenbaum,

You say, "the committee failed to find out the full truth of Nixon's Watergate crimes, the Big Truth (I'll get to that)".

I'm not sure if this is what you're talking about, but if you are well-informed on the Watergate case, maybe you can answer this. I saw a special TV showing on A&E, I think (it could've been Bravo or History Network or some other channel), that said that the aim of the original Watergate burglary was NOT, as commonly suggested, to bug the office of DNC Chairman Larry O'Brian. Rather, according to this program, the aim was to break into the desk of O'Brian's secretary to steal "a little black book". The book supposedly was a link to a call-girl network which was used to entertain Democrat fatcats who came to town. Furthermore, the program said, John Dean's new wife, Maureen was linked to this call-girl ring by way of her roommate.

I found the program so interesting that I taped it (most of it), but I have not reviewed the tape since I made it more than a dozen years ago. Thanking you in advance, I'm just hoping your Watergate expertise can shed some light on whether this version of the aim of the burglary is true.