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The Nation: Murky Places in Operation Candor

3 minute read

With one exception, all of the give-and-take sessions in Operation Candor, as the White House dubbed Nixon’s ten-day blitzkrieg to restore his credibility, took place behind closed doors. The exception, of course, was his hour-long televised press conference with the Associated Press Managing Editors in Florida’s Disney World (TIME, Nov. 26). While carried off with panache and an almost hectic energy, that performance at many points was something less than candid. In fact, on closer examination, the list of some of the distortions, innuendoes and false assumptions by the President is astonishing.

Nixon said that he had “voluntarily waived privilege” on his tapes; what he did was obey two court directives ordering him to yield up the tapes. He said that he hoped a way could be found to get what is on the tapes out to the public; the court had already advised him that he was free to make public the tapes and any other material at once.

He implied that Archibald Cox should have long since wrapped up the Watergate investigations, since “the case was 90% ready” when Cox inherited it; the reason Cox could not wrap up his investigations was that Nixon would not provide him with the evidence on the tapes or in White House files. He said that the McGovern campaign, as well as his own, had received illegal corporate contributions; this could be so. But six major corporations have been found guilty of illegal contributions to the 1972 Nixon effort, while not a single charge of wrongdoing has so far been brought against any company for giving to McGovern. He claimed that the law on political donations by corporations had been changed and thus the donors did not know their contributions were illegal; the law has been on the books since 1907 and was not changed.

He said that President Johnson had better taping equipment in the White House than his own “little Sony” recorders; so far as anyone knows, Johnson had nothing approaching Nixon’s pervasive, voice-activated room-and-telephone bugging apparatus. He said that the nominal taxes he had paid for 1969 and 1970 were not the result of “a cattle ranch or interest or gimmicks”; but there is no way his taxes could have been so low if he had not deducted his interest payments on the loans and mortgages for his real estate purchases.

Beyond such misstatements, there is the matter of Nixon’s gift to the nation of his vice-presidential papers and the tax benefits that resulted from the bequest. To begin with, Nixon said that he got the idea from Johnson when he was elected to succeed him. But Nixon had already given a batch of his papers to the U.S. in 1968 and was well aware of the procedure. In addition, in 1969, Congress was debating the law that took effect on July 25,1969, making such gifts no longer valid as tax deductions. Though Johnson, who had just left office, had presidential papers that certainly would have been worth millions of dollars, he elected not to take advantage of the lame-duck law and did not deduct them from his income tax. Nixon had no such hesitation. He made the bequest and took the deductions.

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