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Thursday, May 18, 2023

May 18, 2023: Watergate Figures: Archibald Cox Jr.

[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!]

While the Watergate hearings absolutely shifted public opinion on the scandal and the Nixon administration, it was a parallel event that provided the most direct impetus for the possibility of impeachment (and thus Nixon’s preemptive resignation). When Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox Jr. refused to back down from a subpoena for Nixon’s illegal private recordings, Nixon fired Cox in the October 1973 event that became known as the Saturday Night Massacre; it was that unconstitutional firing and the uproar it produced which truly set the impeachment conversations in motion. Given that particular context, it’s quite striking and telling that Cox would go to be chair of the board of directors for a dozen years (from 1980 to 1992) of Common Cause, a groundbreaking and vital bipartisan organization (founded just three years before the Watergate hearings and still active to this day) advocating for government reform, transparency and accountability, and a government that, as their mission statement puts it, “serves the public interest.” In some ways Watergate was and remains singular, but in many others it was a bellwether of a great deal of issues and debates to come, and Archibald Cox continued to be part of those conversations long after his special prosecuting of Watergate came to a close.

Last Watergate figure tomorrow,


PS. What do you think?

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