[On May 18th, 1973, the nationally televised Senate Watergate hearings began. So for the 50th anniversary of that historic moment, this week I’ll highlight one telling detail each for a handful of the key figures in those hearings Leading up to a weekend post on a few contemporary echoes of that moment!]
Baker, a Republican Senator from Tennessee, was the ranking minority member
on the Ervin Committee, and it was Baker who famously asked, “What
did the President know and when did he know it?” However, it was also Baker who
was revealed—thanks, as so much of the Watergate investigation was, to
Nixon’s thorough and thoroughly illegal recording system—to have said to that
president in a private conversation, “I’m your friend. I’m going to see that
your interests are protected.” That duality of course reflects—as a scandal
like Watergate did in so many ways—some of the best and the worst of how the
branches of government as well as political parties can operate. But it also
captures the dualities of Baker himself, the first Republican Senator from
Tennessee since Reconstruction and Ronald Reagan’s future Chief of Staff yet
also one of the deciding votes in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Clean Air Act of 1970,
and the Supreme Court confirmation of Thurgood Marshall. Ain’t that America?
Watergate figure tomorrow,
do you think?