The Plumbers Who Couldn't Fix a Leak: How Nixon's dirty tricksters got their start.

AuthorMatthews, Chris
PositionEgil Krogh and Matthew Krogh's "The White House Plumbers; The Seven Weeks That Led to Watergate and Doomed Nixon's Presidency"

The White House Plumbers; The Seven Weeks That Led to Watergate and Doomed Nixon's Presidency by Egil "Bud" Krogh and Matthew Krogh St. Martin's Griffin, 208 pp.

For me, the puzzle of Watergate is why Richard Nixon, who wasn't responsible for the Democratic National Committee break-in, decided to lead the coverup just days after the burglary undertaken by a band of White House-led dirty tricksters known as "the Plumbers."

What made the president order the CIA to shut down the FBI probe of the scandal--a fateful decision documented on the June 23, 1972, White House recording whose release in 1974 finally ended Nixon's presidency?

The answer, it turns out, was owing to earlier White House crimes that even Nixon's tough guy friend, attorney general, and fellow criminal, John Mitchell, would christen the "horrors."

Chief among those horrors was the 1971 break-in of the office of Lewis Fielding, the Beverly Hills psychiatrist whose patient was Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the famed Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. Nixon believed that Ellsberg wasn't a misguided or malevolent liberal. The president had no doubt that the Santa Monica, California-based RAND Corporation employee was part of a conspiracy directed by Moscow to sabotage the American war effort in Indochina and the nation's defenses. (There's no evidence to that effect whatsoever.) Nixon feared that Daniel Ellsberg's geyser of leaks wouldn't stop with the lies and catastrophic decisions in Southeast Asia made by his predecessors, which is what the Pentagon Papers were primarily about. Nixon feared that the lies and catastrophic decisions of his Vietnam policy would be forthcoming.

Anger over Ellsberg's disclosures, and fear of more to come, led to the creation of the White House Plumbers--a mysterious, and at times comic, cabal of hardball political operators, intelligence and law enforcement veterans, and other oddballs. The name came from one of the members telling his grandmother that his job at the White House was to stop leaks. "Oh, you're a plumber," she said naively. The name stuck. The group's members included a former intelligence operative and author of espionage novels (E. Howard Hunt); a right-wing mustachioed former FBI man (G. Gordon Liddy) who'd go on to be a staple of right-wing talk radio; and a cynical, seasoned political operative (Charles Colson), who later became a widely admired born-again founder of a nationwide prison ministry.

The White House Plumbers tells the story of one plumber--Egil "Bud" Krogh, a most unlikely crook. A 31-year-old attorney, track star, and Navy...

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