Few men emerged from the Nixon White House with their reputations unscathed, let alone enhanced. Pat Buchanan was one of the few, a distinction he achieved in part by vanquishing the Senate Watergate Committee in his televised testimony at the end of the hearings.
Buchanan tells the story of his Senate Watergate Committee testimony in chapter 17 (“Before the Watergate Committee”) of his 2017 memoir Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever, reviewed respectfully in the New York Times Book Review by Joe Klein in “Patrick Buchanan Reveals Himself to Be the First Trumpist.” The book was published in paperback in 2018. I bought and read it for chapter 17 (“Before the Watergate Committee”).
At NRO Michael Brendan and Rich Lowry have been writing about Buchanan in the context of the announcement that he is hanging up his pen. In a Corner post Dougherty recalls Buchanan’s 1973 appearance before the Senate Watergate Committee. Liberal New Republic columnist John Osborne grudgingly acknowledged that “Buchanan routed his interrogators with a hitherto unmatched display of bravado and cynicism.” (For “cynicism” read “realism.”)
Buchanan memorably did the testimony without the help of a lawyer and often had the gallery in stitches. Samuel Dash, the chief counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee, is impressed with the fiery rhetoric of Buchanan’s memos to the president and others in the White House about the dangers of Democrats’ getting elected. Dash then begins to wonder what kind of tactics Buchanan would recommend. The exchange takes you back to a different era.
Buchanan quotes all the memorable exchanges before the committee in his memoir. Among them is this classic that Dougherty includes in his post:
Mr. DASH. I am just asking you, in the memorandum, where you have indicated the nature of the danger that you saw to the country, and the importance that the forces of the Republican Party including the White House be aimed at knocking out the front-runner, Mr. Muskie, how far would you go to do that? What tactics would you be willing to use?
Mr. BUCHANAN. What tactics would I be willing to use? Anything that was not immoral, unethical, illegal, or unprecedented in previous Democratic campaigns. [Laughter.]
Dougherty posts the YouTube video with audio of Buchanan’s Watergate testimony (below).
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