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Tuesday, May 16, 2023

May 16, 2023: Watergate Figures: Howard Baker

[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!]

Howard 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?

Next Watergate figure tomorrow,


PS. What do you think?

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