Huston Needs Guidance, Colson Picks Hunt

Nixon had a favorite young dirty trickster, former Young Americans for Freedom president Tom Charles Huston. He signed memos “Cato the Younger,” the Roman consul who argued for the execution of conspirators, who despised the barbarians petitioning for citizenship, Cato who bitterly opposed bills for land redistribution, who suggested that rioting and anarchy be crushed by a new militarized consul wing, and Cato whose tactics were so violent that at one point Caesar had to imprisoned the young gun.

Huston embodied a certain paradox of the right: to those who believed civilization unraveling at the hands of barbarians, it was principled to be unprincipled. Nixon was assigning the twenty-eight-year-old former army intelligence officer delicate security requests like setting up the IRS anti-radical unit, or fabricating evidence of Red China ties to antiwar activists (“…or if not Huston, someone with his toughness and brains”) was the order. Colson didn’t like having a rookie doing so much. Nevertheless, Nixon put Huston to work in February putting together an internal-security apparatus to run out of the White House; Nixon thought John Mitchell and the Justice Department too high a profile for the job.

On February 9, the president’s aggressive new special counsel, Charles W. Colson, recommended another healthy right-wing exuberant to help guide the rookie: E. Howard Hunt, a former CIA agent who’d helped run the Guatemala coup in 1954 and the Bay of Pigs in 1961. He had just quit the company because he thought it “infested with Democrats.”

Colson had wanted Howard Hunt to lead the Plumbers, but Ehrlichman had other plans for him. Furnished with a red wig, a CIA-issue voice modifier, and “pocket litter” in the name of Edward J. Warren, he was assigned to the Ted Kennedy floozy watch.