Nixon Wants Dirty Tricks at Start

Nixon demands of Bob Haldeman “I still have not had any progress report on what procedure has been set up to continue on some kind of basis the letters to the editor project and the calls to TV stations.” This project was a Nixon obsession. The RNC and state and local Republican parties put together lists of loyalists—the “Nixon Network”—willing to write on their own or lend their names to ghostwritten missives on items of presidential concern. Day 52, it was the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: “They have a sequence in which one said to the other that he found it difficult to find anything to laugh about—Vietnam, the cities, etc., but ‘Richard Nixon’s solving those problems’ and ‘that’s really funny.’” Nixon told aides he wanted letters to the producers, stipulating their argument: the gag was inaccurate “in view of the great public approval of RN’s handling of foreign policy, etc., etc.” The show was canceled one month later. A press aide, Jim Keogh, a former Time editor, pointed out on Day 29, “Media treatment of the President is almost uniformly excellent.” The president answered, “You don’t understand, they are waiting to destroy us.” There was a heavy PR focus of active spin, polling, astroturf… from the beginning of term.