WASHINGTON -- In 1970, a 38-year-old White House aide told President Richard M. Nixon that Sen. Bob Dole's "knee-jerk" defense of the Nixon administration was eroding Dole's credibility as the chairman of the Republican National Committee.
That aide, Donald Rumsfeld, is Dole's national campaign coordinator today. Rumsfeld was "simply looking out for a friend 26 years ago," Christina Martin, the Dole campaign's deputy press secretary, said yesterday.
In a memorandum declassified yesterday after a quarter-century under seal, Nixon wrote that "Rumsfeld has the feeling that Bob Dole may be losing some of his effectiveness because he is a 'knee-jerk' defender of the administration." The president noted that it was "important that we not let Dole destroy his usefulness by having him step up to every hard, fast one."
The memorandum was one of more than 28,000 once-secret documents from the Nixon White House released by the National Archives yesterday after a 22-year legal and political struggle.
Some 14,000 others -- in the so-called "special files" of the Nixon White House -- remain secret, on grounds of personal privacy, political propriety and national security. They include at least three more documents detailing how Nixon removed Dole as Republican National Committee chairman in 1972, replacing him with George Bush.
A glimpse at the documents released yesterday provided flashes of insight into the mind of the late president.
Despite every indication that he would be re-elected in a landslide in 1972, Nixon fretted that year that he needed better "propaganda" on the Vietnam War, more political strength from his Supreme Court appointees and a purge of thousands of CIA employees who he feared were disloyal.
In a January 1972 memorandum to his closest aides, H. R. Haldeman and John Erlichmann, Nixon said he would move for a constitutional amendment barring federal courts from integrating public schools and housing. The main reason, he said, was that he feared that "ultra-liberal" rulings from the four Supreme Court justices he had appointed -- including the current chief justice, William H. Rehnquist -- would integrate the nation against its will.
Nixon and Haldeman also calculated ways to gain political advantage from the failed Supreme Court nomination of Clement Haynsworth Jr., a chief federal appeals court judge, in 1969.
The president wrote in a November 1969 memorandum to
Haldeman that perhaps Haynsworth should be secretly told to resign as chief judge of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. "By his being a martyr we may gain enormously from this incident," Nixon argued. Haynsworth served 17 more years until his death.
In handwritten notes made by Haldeman on Nov. 19, 1972, Nixon also appeared to be sending a warning about the secret White House tapes to his national security adviser and future secretary of state, Henry A. Kissinger, through Haldeman.
Pub Date: 10/18/96