Historic Whispers: Nixon Resigns

35 years ago, Whispers reported the first reflections about the new President Ford.

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Thirty-five years ago, Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency because he was ensnarled in the coverup of the Watergate Hotel break-in. Our Whispers reveal that his lawyers were going to quit en masse unless the disgraced president admitted he sought to impede the FBI investigation of Watergate. We also reported Washington's first reflections about the new president, Gerald Ford, with one lobbyist calling him "superbly average." Nelson Rockefeller and Ronald Reagan were in the news for the veep job, and Teddy Kennedy, having staged a political comeback post-Chappaquiddick, considered Ford his biggest threat for the presidency.

  • As the impeachment showdown nears, the White House is claiming a fresh outpouring of support for the President. The volume of pro-Nixon mail is described as increasing sharply and aides assert that many Republican Congressmen are telephoning to report the same thing. (July 29, 1974)
    • The Nixon inner circle makes no secret of its displeasure with Vice President Ford's running comments on Watergate. He is being urged to limit public pronouncements to economic and legislative matters. (July 29, 1974)
      • Partly as a result of Watergate, it is being predicted on Capitol Hill that this autumn's elections will bring in up to 100 new members of Congress—and a far-more-independent breed. Says a Senate strategist: "You're going to see an individualistic crew leaning to the wild side. The leaders won't know how to handle them." (July 29, 1974)
        • Sources close to the Supreme Court say the initial vote on the decision requiring President Nixon to surrender subpoenaed White House tapes was 6 to 2, with two Nixon appointees dissenting. According to these sources, the dissenters then switched to make the ruling unanimous in view of the historic importance of a case asserting the power of the Court against the executive branch. (Aug. 5, 1974)
          • Intimates of Senator Edward Kennedy say the Massachusetts Democrat now concedes that should he decide to seek the Presidency in 1976, the toughest foe he could face would be Vice President Gerald Ford. A Kennedy aide's size-up of Mr. Ford: "Tough, yes. He has shown a lot of political ability these past few months. But we don't consider him unbeatable." (Aug. 5, 1974)
            • A top Washington lobbyist's size-up of Gerald Ford: "He is superbly average. If he has Harry Truman's courage, he has a chance to be a fine President. We have worked with him for many years, and I have never heard anybody suggest that Ford was not an honest man. When he gives you his word on something, that's the way it is." (Aug. 19, 1974)
              • Richard Nixon's lawyers threatened to quit en masse unless he publicly admitted he sought to impede the FBI investigation of Watergate. What angered them was the fact that Mr. Nixon had withheld important evidence from those who were conducting his defense. (Aug. 19, 1974)
                • Business leaders urging selection of Nelson A. Rockefeller as Vice President in a new Administration maintained that the former New York Governor had a big thing going for him: the prestige needed to attract top-notch men to pivotal jobs at a crucial time for the nation's economy. (Aug. 19, 1974)
                  • At the Nixon compound in San Clemente, associates of the former President make no secret of their worry about possible legal action. A question that members of the Nixon entourage keep asking visitors is: "Do you think the American people will stand for any more harassment?" (Aug. 26, 1974)
                    • When the new President telephoned Representative Charles Rangel (Dem.), of New York, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, to set up a meeting with that group, the Congressman was "bowled over," aides said. It took a year for the Black Caucus to arrange a similar meeting with President Nixon. (Aug. 26, 1974)
                      • Despite President Ford's glowing words about the White House press corps and newsmen generally, he was heard to mutter to a visiting diplomat: "They all are fine people, but they get their pound of flesh." (Aug. 26, 1974)
                        • As the story is told in California, Governor Ronald Reagan was a top choice for Vice President and telephone lines between the White House and Sacramento were humming until Mr. Reagan insisted that President Ford agree to step aside in 1976, giving the Californian a clear field for the Republican presidential nomination. The response, so the story goes, was a flat "No deal." (Sept. 2, 1974)
                          • It's now disclosed by intimates that Nelson Rockefeller—a lifelong Republican—rejected an invitation to become Hubert Humphrey's running mate on the Democratic ticket in 1968. Mr. Rockefeller also turned down a vice-presidential bid from the Republican nominee, Richard Nixon, in the 1960 maneuvering. (Sept. 2, 1974)
                            • One more sign of change at the White House: People who phoned to comment on President Ford's limited-amnesty proposal were told politely: "We have no facilities for you to register your opinion by telephone. Please send a telegram or write a letter." During the Nixon Administration, White House aides were able to supply an almost immediate tabulation of telephone calls that followed major presidential speeches. (Sept. 2, 1974)