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OPINION: How the Nixon Mail is Running

4 minute read

Five weeks after President Nixon’s firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, the unprecedented outpouring of public protest that White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig likened to a “fire storm” was finally starting to slow down — though letters from voters were still pouring into Washington offices at a high rate. A survey by TIME of Senators and Representatives, key committees in the Legislative Branch and Western Union indicates that Americans have sent over 3,000,000 messages to the capital in the wake of the Saturday Night Massacre. Examination of the most recent, especially those written after the President’s counterattack began, shows a noticeable gain in support for Nixon, occasionally reaching half the total volume. But most counts are still running 70% to 80% against him, compared with at least a 95% disapproval rating in the days immediately after the debacle.

Perhaps the most telling indicator of opinion being expressed in letters and telegrams is the persistent refusal of the White House to reveal anything about Nixon’s total mail, not even an estimate of how many messages have been sent to him. In all probability, Nixon received well over 250,000 messages.

When public expression has been running in his favor, the White House has been quick to make the counts known.

Thus, after his televised appearance be fore a convention of news executives in Florida, presidential aides announced that of 1,000 telephone calls and 5,000 letters and telegrams, Nixon was being praised in a ratio of 12 to 1. But overall figures are still unavailable.

Congressman Peter Rodino, who as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee heads the formal inquiry into Nixon’s possible impeachment, has received more than 165,000 pieces of mail.

His overall tally is about 95% against the President, but he estimates that in the declining volume of mail that has reached his office during the past week or so, the share of pro-Nixon letters has risen to about 17%.

At the Senate Watergate committee, the volume of mail has dropped off sharply, from 15,000 pieces during the week after the firing to about 6,000 last week, but the writers have grown progressively harder on the President. In the first batch, 56% called for Nixon’s impeachment and 3% were favorable to the President (the rest were unfavorable but stopped short of calling for his ouster); the most recent shows three-quarters in favor of impeachment or resignation and less than 1% pro-Nixon.

Ouster Demands. New York’s conservative Senator James Buckley estimates that sentiment for impeachment-resignation in the 600 letters a day that he has been receiving declined from 98% at first all the way down to 50% recently. About 700 letters a day reach the state’s other Senator, liberal Republican Jacob Javits. Though it is now running about 3 to 1 against the President, Javits’ total post-Cox haul of 42,000 letters and telegrams includes only 4,000 voicing support for Nixon.

Democratic Senator Henry Jackson’s mail has shown a slight retreat from ouster demands, which were running at 90% earlier and 75% more recently. At the office of New Jersey’s Republican Senator Clifford Case, where Nixon has received support in less than 10% of all mail in recent weeks, his rating last week had improved to 20%.

Senator Alan Cranston, a Democrat from California, reports nearly a 10-to-l ratio against the President in 35,000 letters, including one from a youth counselor in Whittier, Nixon’s home town. “I find it a bit awkward to convince a wayward youth to be honest or just while our President sets such a startling example to the contrary,” he wrote. A pro-Nixon letter from Newport Beach countered: “From the Viet Nam War through Watergate and calling Brezhnev’s bluff, Mr. Nixon’s full name should be President Guts Nixon.”

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