50 Years Ago Today

So let’s finish off this particular thread, before news events of 50 years prior overtake us. :)

A Month-long Free-For-All

About the time that President Nixon is signing that landmark campaign finance bill into law, a couple of CREEP lawyers excitedly get the campaign’s finance heads Maurice Stans and Herb Kalmbach on the phone. Guys, have you read this legislation? Stans and Kalmbach say they sort of have, sure.

“But did you know,” says the campaign lawyer, “DID YOU KNOW…the existing laws sunset on March 10, 1972…but the new law doesn’t take effect until April 7?” It’s likely that neither Stans nor Kalmbach grasped fully what that meant. They likely pointed out that there would still be IRS reporting regulations on contributions, and that the campaign would still need to report contributions as income.

And so the excited campaign lawyer or lawyers (we’re not sure who it was that sorted this out; likely there were multiple CREEP counsels who saw this temporary loophole simultaneously) explained further: any campaign incoming money during that month did NOT have to be tracked within the campaign. Those monies simply could be reported on April 7 as “cash on hand”, and could be used for ANYTHING by the campaign, without having to specifically disclose it.

Anonymous, untraceable campaign slush fund, here we come. (And to be clear, the Democrats absolutely could’ve done the same thing, and would have. Problem: they were doing a primary season from March to April of 1972, and big Democratic donors were holding onto their money, hoping against hope that McGovern wouldn’t be the nominee.) Illegal? Nope, it was all going to be perfectly legal. Unethical? For sure, and worry over public perception regarding what the Nixon campaign was about to do for a month would be another reason why the White House was too eager to cover up the break-in on June 17.

Holy cow. This is something I did not know. Keep this history coming, please!

Twisting Arms

So you’d think with this big campaign fundraising advantage staring them in the face, the Nixon campaign would be gearing up for a crazy month of off-the-books but legal cash-grabbing. You’d think. But you’d be wrong. John Mitchell is a disorganized mess; he doesn’t resign as AG until January, and even then he’s got Martha Mitchell distractions, and he’s just a messy, chaotic shell of the guy who ran Nixon’s '68 campaign. John Dean – as a CREEP lawyer – has done his part, though. In December and January, he set up hundreds of those little anonymously named astroturf PACs. All legal, but ethically dubious.

But it’s the second week of March of 1972, and money isn’t really coming in like a rushing river. And the White House is getting antsy and finally spurs Mitchell and his deputy Magruder into action And they spur Stans and Kalmbach to battle as well. Still, what should have been a month-long push instead will be 2-3 weeks of absolute chaos.

What the campaign should’ve done was alert big money Republican donors in January and February about the reporting “holiday” that was coming in March. That way, those donors could free up liquidity in cash to donate. Instead, many of these donors are taken off guard when they get calls from CREEP and Stans and Kalmbach in mid-March. These donors would LOVE to kick over more cash, they tell CREEP, but they need a few weeks to free up the cash to write those checks.

And they’re told “No no no. Has to be in by April 7. HAS TO.” And in order to spur donors to action, Stans and Kalmbach start twisting arms. We’ve already mentioned that George Steinbrenner had it made clear to him that his issues with labor regulations would go away if he contributed. But he was hardly alone. American Airlines was trying to acquire Western Airlines, and was worried it would get caught up in SEC red tape and regulation. Plus, Herb Kalmbach was also legal counsel for United. Get the picture fellas? American sure did, and a few hundred thousand came flowing into the Nixon campaign coffers there.

The folks who got milked the most for campaign funds in this period was AMPA – an American dairy producer’s group. They’d been lobbying the White House for months for stronger price supports and subsidies…and now they started pumping cash into the campaign coffers to the tune of millions. (And hey whaddya know, what a coincidence that about the time the last check was handed over to Stans personally, the White House announced increased price supports and subsidies for the dairy industry! Golly, that sure is an extraordinary sequence of events!)

It wasn’t just corporate entities feeling the squeeze. The Nixon White House was also selling ambassadorships to heavy contributors. One notable story is that of department store heir Ruth Farkas, who contributed $250,000 during this month, and was disappointed to only be offered the ambassadorship to Costa Rica for her troubles. “I was thinking of something in Europe”, she told Stans. Stans responded “I’m told that European ambassadorships now start at $300k.”

“Done,” said Farkas, and about a week after her check arrived, she found herself the new ambassador to Luxembourg.

The campaign was seeing so much money rolling in from mid-March to April that their own system of clearing and depositing funds was bogging down. There was so much actual cash (as in, in twenties, fifties, hundreds, and even a few thousand-dollar bills) that it was overflowing all the safes that CREEP had at their disposal. They needed some way of turning the incoming money into something that wasn’t cash, but spent the same way as cash. And as it happens, they were sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of traveler’s checks that they were worried would be very trace-able. Worse than that, they had bundlers around the country collecting funds from local contributors, and then the bundlers writing personal checks for the total amount – which is what a fundraiser from Minnesota, Ken Dahlberg, had done.

And that’s where a bank in Mexico City enters the (shady) picture. A well-connected, wealthy Mexico City corporate lawyer was enlisted to convert those traveler’s and personal checks into cashier’s checks drawn on a Mexico City bank. The cashier’s checks were then sent back to CREEP to be deposited as they liked into any campaign-related account they wanted to deposit them into. Much easier to handle than pure cash, these cashier’s checks in $10,000 and $25,000 denominations could be held for special projects until needed. All legally.

But there was so much money going south to Mexico City and back up north to the campaign that things got messy. Really messy. One check for $25,000 that had been hand-delivered to Maurice Stans, for instance, never got converted to a cashier’s check. It just went into a campaign safe. And that guy I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, Kenneth Dahlberg, wouldn’t find out until sometime around July 31st or so that this was the case with the check he’d handed over.

BTW, Garrett Graff estimates that in this one-month period, the Nixon campaign collected $11 million in campaign contributions, including $5 million in the final 48 hours before the April 7 deadline. Considering that CREEP began with about $5 million in cash on hand from 1968, and had collected another $5 - 7 million in kickoff campaign donations in the previous 6 months…that means that in that one month the Nixon campaign raised about 20% of it’s remaining total 1972 expenditures in that crazy month.

OK, so over the next two days, two related stories are going to break. Those two stories are going to be super-important. But paradoxically, no one is going to care very much for about them for about 7 months. But then, they’re going to care a lot, and these two stories are going to essentially be the complete closure of a potential Nixon Administration escape route. And so before I go there, it’s important to understand the lay of the land as folks in America went to sleep on the evening of July 30th, 1972.

First: Watergate kind of sort of seems like a dead or dying story. As mentioned, Bob Woodward has been on a vacation. Carl Bernstein has been assigned back to the Northern Virginia beat at the Washington Post. June 17 seems like eons ago, and Watergate kind of still seems like a local news story to most of the country.

The FBI investigation is stymied. Angelo Lano and his team are being stonewalled by CREEP witnesses, and are being held on a leash that prevents them from investigating money trails. A grand jury is set to get underway. Juge Sirica is getting ready to hear some opening arguments in the case against the 5 burglars.

And while there’s been a ton of smoke, on the evening of July 30th, 1972 it sure seems like the White House/CREEP strategy of limiting the Watergate damage to the 5 burglars and Liddy and Hunt is going to work, probably. They’re going to maintain the fiction that these 7 were a “rogue element” of the campaign who were only able to do what they did because John Mitchell was asleep at the switch. There was nothing (despite lots and lots of frustrating hints to the contrary) to suggest any wider White House involvement in the break-in.

And it all would’ve worked out that way…except for those meddling reporters…

The First of Many Smoking Guns

The nature of fame and renown is fickle. If you think of media and reporters regarding Watergate, you’re going to think of Woodward and Bernstein – this story made their careers, and made them arguably the most famous reporters in American history. And in terms of media outlets, it took the Washington Post from a local paper with big designs into the national spotlight as one of the most important news sources in the country.

And yet. If not for a crucial decision and plane trip, it might not have played out that way.

Meet Walter Rugaber, a White House reporter for the New York Times. Rugaber was young but well-respected, a guy who clearly seemed like he was going places. And in early July, Rugaber’s reporter spidey senses were tingling a LOT about Miami and Dade county, the place where Bernard Barker’s bank was located.

Rugaber got to Miami, and over the course of a background interview with the US Attorney for that region – a lifelong Democrat named Richard Gerstein – both the reporter and his interview subject got pretty excited about what the other guy seemed to know.

Gerstein used his subpoena power to get Bernard Barker’s phone records, and on July 25 of 1972, the first mini-boomlet story ran in the Times detailing that Watergate burglar Barker had called CREEP headquarters more than a dozen times in April and May before the burglary. That story was, in the grand scheme, kind of a nothing-burger on its own; the White House and G. Gordon himself knew that Liddy was going to be offered up as a scapegoat and patsy in all this, and Barker’s calls all were to a phone in Liddy’s office. Still no wider connection. Still a “rogue group” within CREEP…

…but the story’s most seismic impact was at the Washington Post. Editor in chief Ben Bradlee was furious when he read that July 25 story. His paper – which had kind of “owned” the Watergate story since it happened had been scooped, and scooped by a damn fine reporter at the biggest paper in the country.

And so after dressing down both of his own young reporters who’d been on the Watergate beat for missing this crucial link, he had Carl Bernstein on a plane, headed to Miami to see what he could find.

Bernstein arrived in Miami on July 31st. As he arrived, he picked up a copy of the morning New York Times, and saw Walter Rugaber’s biggest bombshell report on the front page.

Rugaber’s story in the Times detailed how the sequential $100 bills found with the Watergate burglars had come from withdrawals from Barker’s bank account in the amount of $89,000, from early May. That amount – $89,000 – matched exactly the amount of four cashiers check drafts from Banco Internacional in Mexico City that had been deposited in Barker’s account just a few weeks earlier.

That story was pretty big, and got national play. Every reporter with a connection to the White House recognized instantly that the Mexico City connection fit with what was already known at the time about the Nixon Campaign fundraising sprint during the “dark” fundraising reporting month in March/April. It was still frustratingly short of being the big smoking gun that incontrovertibly tied the White House to the burglars…but it was close. (It’s likely most reporters also recognized that the complexity of a story dealing with the ins and outs of campaign finance and funding was probably going to zoom over the heads of most who’d read it.)

There was one other important thing in that New York Times story that only a competing newspaper like the Washington Post would notice: it was datelined from Mexico City.

About the time Rugaber’s first report hit the Times on July 25th, Gerstein had gotten Barker’s bank records. (Side note: it pays to have subpoena power on your side. If you’re wondering if someone in the Trump White House knew about what Richard Gerstein did, and how it would eventually help bring down Nixon…and thus that’s why a whole bunch of qualified, Democratic-president appointed US Atttorneys were fired in 2017…well, I’m wondering that, too.) In those bank records, Gerstein and Rugaber found the four deposits drawn on the Mexico City bank as cashier’s drafts. They also found a fifth big deposit into Barker’s bank account that had been a personal check written over to him. The name on that $25,000 check was “Kenneth Dahlberg”.

Gerstein and reporter Walter Rugaber spent the next few days trying to find out who “Kenneth Dahlberg” was, but had no luck. (It apparently didn’t occur to Rugaber to phone that into the Times research department for them to look – he trusted Gerstein’s office on that research, and Gerstein’s office was, well, let’s just say far from efficient.)

On July 30th, Rugaber made a fateful decision: he’d follow the Mexico City money trail first. He’d stay in touch with Gerstein’s office and let them know what he found.

This would be one of the most fateful early decisions in the entire history of Watergate reporting. Maybe the MOST fateful one would happen as Carl Bernstein read Rugaber’s New York Times story as he sat in the Miami airport that morning of July 31st.

Bernstein went to a newstand in the airport and got a bunch of change and found a payphone to call the Washington Post offices. Thankfully for him, he got Post City editor Barry Sussman on the phone. (Sussman – to whom both Bernstein and Woodward would directly report to – plays a huge role in the the actual Watergate reporting, as well as in the book All The President’s Men. For whatever reason, his character was completely written out of the movie, apparently to avoid confusing viewers and a lot of what Sussman did was given to the characters of Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards) and Howard Simon (Martin Balsam) in the film. Sussman was displeased by this, to say the least, and even considered legal action.)

Sussman let Bernstein know that the latest Times scoop on the money trail that had hit front pages that morning had Bradlee in an even worse disposition than when Bernstein had left for Miami. Bernstein told him he understood, but he was there in Miami now. But where was the story? Should he (Bernstein) stay in Miami or follow Rugaber to Mexico City?

And Barry Sussman, City Editor at the Washington Post, makes what might be the single most important decision in the Watergate saga – at least as far as the Post is concerned. He tells Bernstein to stay in Miami to see what he can dig up.

Bernstein hails a cab and heads over to Richard Gerstein’s office. If Walter Rugaber had found a bombshell in reporting the Mexico City money in Bernard Barker’s bank account, Carl Bernstein is about to find another bombshell that will eventually feel nuclear in nature.

The Check From the World War II Flying Ace

It’s still mid-morning on July 31. Carl Bernstein has just called the Post offices, and Barry Sussman has told him to stay in Miami to see what he can dig up. Bernstein calls Gerstein’s office, and the US Attorney tells the reporter that he’s happy to share what he has already shared with Walter Rugaber at the NYT. Bernstein can come down to his office and meet with Gerstein’s chief investigator, a guy named Martin Dardis.

If you’ve seen All The President’s Men, you know what happens next; it’s one of the signature scenes in the film. Dardis (for whatever reason) keeps Bernstein waiting for hours. Morning turns to noon, and noon becomes mid-afternoon before he finally sneaks in to interrupt Dardis and demand some acknowledgment.

Dardis finally relents, but as far as he’s concerned, this is all spent powder. He goes over the bank drafts from Mexico City, and the withdrawal records from Barker showing a 1:1 match. Yeah, old news. It was all in the Times that morning.

“And that’s about it,” says Dardis, “Except for that Dahlberg check.”

Bernstein asks to see it, and Dardis is reluctant. Bernstein explains: he just wants to get the spelling of the name right. There’s no address printed on the check anyway.

Then Bernstein, rather than rely on Martin Dardis’s crack investigatory skills, instead calls the Washington Post to talk to Bob Woodward.

It should be noted here that “Woodward and Bernstein” aren’t yet a thing. While their names have appeared on a couple of Watergate stories to date, those have been stories with multiple other Post reporters listed as well. If anything, to this stage, Woodward and Bernstein had been in competition with one another, each trying to stay on the Watergate beat and hoping that if the Post has just one reporter covering the story, that they’ll be The One.

But Bernstein has a hunch that whomever “Kenneth Dahlberg” is, he’s probably a hoop-de-do in the Republican Party, and Bob Woodward is a Republican. Maybe he’ll recognize the name.

Woodward is stumped…but intrigued. He tells Bernstein he’ll work on it. The archivists and researchers at the Washington Post after about an hour turn up the name “Kenneth Dahlberg” in a photo caption. It’s with some local Republicans in Minneapolis.

And then it clicks for Woodward. He’s heard the name before. Something with Nixon’s campaign in '68. He calls a friend who is connected with the GOP in in Chicago, and finds out that Ken Dahlberg was a midwest campaign chair for Nixon in 1968. He’s a war hero – a genuine fighter ace from World War II. (I think he had something like a dozen confirmed kills, just in case you were curious.) As far as the friend knows, Dahlberg lives around Minneapolis somewhere.


It takes a while, but by late afternoon Woodward thinks he’s got the home phone number for Dahlberg, who lives in the toney suburb of Orono, Minnesota. He calls and a fairly frantic-sounding guy picks up. Yes, he’s Kenneth Dahlberg. Woodward identifies himself as a Washington Post reporter, and could he ask Dahlberg some questions.

Dahlberg splutters something about timing and hangs up abruptly.

While Woodward is wondering what the hell that was all about, he gets a call back. It’s Dahlberg. He’s contrite, because he didn’t believe the voice on the phone earlier was really a reporter. He’s still pretty shaken, and explains that earlier that day his neighbor was kidnapped from her front yard.

(Yes, that really happened, too. If you’re familiar with the financial firm Piper Jaffray, the kidnapped woman was Virginia Piper, wife of THAT Piper. Thankfully she was found alive two days later.)

Woodward is apologetic and adjusts his tone. Could he just ask a few questions? Yeah? So, uh, does Ken Dahlberg know how a check he’d written ended up in the bank account of a Watergate burglar?

Dahlberg does not, and he’s adamant about that in a tone of voice that feels genuine to Woodward. Of course Dahlberg remembers the check. He’d personally handed it over, in DC, to Maurice Stans himself in first week of April. That check was from bundled contributions throughout the northern midwest area, and what happened to the check after he handed it over is nothing Dahlberg knows anything about.

And in the next morning’s Washington Post, a story detailing that a campaign check from a midwestern fundraiser that was handed to Stans and Magruder (when called for comment, Stans immediately threw Magruder under the bus and said he’d passed the check to the Deputy Campaign Chair) had been deposited into the account of Watergate burglar Bernard Barker. Woodward wrote most of the story, but insisted on giving a shared byline to Bernstein, who’d turned up the clue. From this point forward, for the next two years any Watergate story with one guy’s name on it also had the other reporter’s as well.

But the Dahlberg check story is important for other reasons as well. To this point, the White House believed the damage from Watergate would be contained to the 5 burglars, plus Liddy and Hunt. That becomes impossible with the Dahlberg check. Now Stans and Magruder are probably up for investigation. So to is the recently-resigned Mitchell. And who knew how far it’d go from there?

From the publishing of this August 1st story and going forward, Watergate is going to be an uncontrollable political brushfire that has broken containment and isn’t going to burn out until it takes a White House down.

Talk about biting the hand. Take a genuine war hero Republican booster and crap all over him through mendacity and incompetence. Yay team GOP!

In an ideal setting, Dahlberg’s check would’ve been converted to cash or to a bank draft through Mexico City. But he didn’t hand it over to Stans and Magruder until something like a day before the April 7 deadline when the new campaign finance law went into effect. And so the Campaign Committee got reaaaaaally sloppy and just kept the check and included it in the money that Liddy requisitioned for his “ops”. (It was likely campaign treasurer Hugh Sloan who included the Dahlberg check “as is” in that money. Sloan was an innocent – a total boy scout – and was thus kept out of the loop on the crazy shit Liddy and Hunt were planning, and thus Sloan didn’t think there would be any issue approving the signing over of Dahlberg’s very trace-able check to a campaign group.)

One other knock-on effect of the first Woodward and Bernstein bylined story that inextricably tied the campaign at large to Watergate via the Dahlberg check: it also ended (at least for a number of months) any interest the NY Times had in covering Watergate.

Down in Mexico City, Walter Rugaber realized that he’d chosen…poorly…by going to Mexico and not staying in Miami to try to track down who Dahlberg was on his own. And he was likely kicking himself (and he should’ve been) for not putting the NYT researchers onto Dahlberg’s name. (They’d have likely found the same AP photo/caption with Dahlberg that the Post researchers found.)

The Dahlberg story in the Post thoroughly scooped the Times. And it was the first time either paper had actually used investigative journalism to break a Watergate story on their own, without just repeating something leaked to them. Rugaber and the NYT – who on July 31st looked like they were about to own the Watergate story going forward – decided by sundown on August 1st that they were kind of done with Watergate for the time being.

Yeah, I get that; what an interesting series of happenstances though that brought it all together.

^ 48…

Ok but who’s Ebbs and why should I support him?

Stan Ebbs got his start as a water-rights attorney out west with his partner John Flows. Later went on to work in marketing for laundry detergent.

Oh, he’s the guy that sliced Jake Gittes’ nose?

Unknown (2)

Damn it you people, I tuned in here hoping for some more great reading about Watergate, and I get bad (good) puns!

"No one cares.

So here we are mid-month in August of 1972…and what’s happening is basically…nothing. At least on the surface.

A Grand Jury has been empaneled to look into the Watergate burglary. That’s worthy of its own post for what an absolute tank job the Grand Jury will end up being.

Woodward and Bernstein are trying to track down more leads, but for now they’re hitting dead ends.

And a slapfight at the highest levels of the FBI is going to become SUPER important in coming weeks.

But for now, it’s interesting to look at polling. If you’re Senator George McGovern, the Democratic nominee in 1972, it’s…not good. In fact, it’s disastrous.

And one of the things that may leap to mind is to wonder why no one in the American electorate seems to really care about Watergate with just two and a half months left before election day. It’s a question that most folks who look at the timeline naturally will wonder about – especially after the blockbuster stories from the Post and Times at the beginning of the month that conclusively tied CREEP to the Watergate burglary.

But a late-August poll will show that just 57% of voters in 1972 had heard of Watergate. And of those 57%, the vast majority saw it as “politics as usual.” You can understand some of that: even today, it’s difficult to fathom why the hell Nixon’s campaign wanted to break into the DNC HQ. It was fairly clear from about the time Teddy Kennedy drove his car off a bridge in Chappaquiddick in 1969 that no one the Democrats could come up with was a match for Nixon in 1972. So yeah, you’d naturally assume that the story of a burglary and widespread illegal campaign activity being somehow connected to the White House to just be the team that was losing badly complaining to the referees.

But that rationalization still can’t fully explain the apathy of American voters towards Watergate, pre-election in 1972. And the more I read about the 1972 election, the more I think (and this is personal opinion!) that one of the reasons that so many voters chose to look the other way on Watergate was due to one single factor:

Democratic candidate George McGovern.

The more you look at the campaign and polling of 1972, the more one unescapable, uncomfortable fact comes to mind: George McGovern might’ve been the single worst candidate for president ever fielded for that position. Not from an experience angle: McGovern was a respected, capital-L progressive liberal in the Senate, and had been for a while. (For least-qualified, Buchanan and Trump and Harding all lead the field by open lengths.)

No, McGovern’s main issue was less to do with qualification, and more to do with policy. And even here, I feel like I should say with clear voice: McGovern campaigned on an immediate end to US involvement in Vietnam, to broadening civil rights, strengthening and growing social programs in an almost New Deal forward-lookingness. George McGovern was a good guy, and well ahead of his time for what he ran on.


To understand how bad a candidate George McGovern was, you kind of have to go back to 1968. That was, to be mild, a pretty brutal year in American history. And a whole lot of folks who lived through that time kind of thought that the world – or at least America – was about one more violent protest or murdered leader away from anarchy and an armed insurrection. People were frightened – like to the core frightened – that the collapse of society was at hand.

But now it’s 1972. The protests have faded into the background as rumors of actual, real life peace negotiations are taking place. Draft lotteries had started slowing by then, even if the fighting in southeast Asia continued to rage. For whatever reason – maybe just exhaustion at fighting an establishment stacked against them – the counterculture was becoming absorbed into the mainstream. Poll after poll showed a creeping optimism among average Americans, and the oft-asked Gallup question about the country being on the right or wrong track was finally showing more “right track” than “wrong”.

And beyond that, as mentioned up thread it was clear that despite his reputation as a die-hard anti-communist warrior, Nixon had a rapport with Soviet Premier Brezhnev. By 1972 the threat of the Cold War getting hot felt as remote as it had since the descent of the Iron Curtain after World War II for most Americans.

For better or worse, after a period of some of the most dramatic societal changes in American history, when much of (white) middle America saw nothing but rising chaos around them…Nixon brought a sense of stability. Almost one of comfort. And though that probably didn’t extend too far into minority communities, it sure extended pretty far into Greatest Generation voters in their late 40s and early 50s.

And into all that came the most tone-deaf, “Read the room” campaign in history. Was McGovern right in his progressive policies? Sure, I think so, and history has been kind to him calling out so stridently how the “American Dream” really didn’t exist for significant swathes of the population. But McGovern couldn’t help himself but talk about great and grand overhauls of government and policy and society. He was a “change” candidate running in an election where voters wanted change about as much as they wanted a kick in the teeth.

And so it sure seems like one of the reasons the American voting public decided as a large group to not care so much about Watergate is that a whole lot of them really didn’t want George McGovern to be president. And it wasn’t just Republicans who were against him. Independent voters and even moderate Democrats just weren’t buying the change that McGovern wanted to bring.

And so the calendar pages of the summer of 1972 turned. And though the McGovern campaign tried to make Watergate a thing, the more they tried to bring it up, it seemed like the more it reinforced to voters that the break-in was much ado about nothing.

But next up, the bitchy fight at the top of the FBI would yield one of the more important early characters in the Watergate saga…

I don’t recall much about the economics of 1972 but I do recall the 72 auto year was the last year before the catalytic converter, which became required equipment in 1973 IIRC (and the 1973 car models were selling right during this time in 1972 - they lead the calendar year by like 6 months or so). I vaguely recall issues with price controls in 1971 (from my reading not from experience - I was 3). I also vaguely recall that although 1973 was a year of war and OPEC embargoes in the middle east, there had been some economic problems in 1971, related to gas prices. Also, inflation was beginning it’s surge in 1972 but I don’t recall numbers.

The point I am making is I am wondering what the “economy, stupid” was saying to voters in 1972. Was 72 a good econ year prior to the doldrums of the later decade and did that make McGovern a loser? Was 72 a year of economic insecurity and people were frightened of McGovern’s liberal policies?

I just feel like economics had to be a factor but I don’t recall the specifics of 72 well enough to have a theory. I agree that McGovern performed extremely poorly but I’m not sure as to why.

So those are great points.

And here’s where Nixon was (depending on how you see it) really, really brilliant as a politician, or really lucky. Probably a bit of both, but let’s give him credit.

After a series of fairly secretive meetings in the fall of 1971 – with inflation going through the roof in the country – Nixon made two dramatic announcements. First, he announced that he was taking the US off the gold standard. Then, he announced a 90-day wage and price freeze. He did both with a nationally televised address on a Wednesday night in August.

And history has been proven that he was right to abandon the gold standard. And the wage and price freeze (which, to be fair, was something Democrats and moderate Republicans in the House and Senate had been urging him to do) had an effect of pushing forward the worst effects of inflation into late 1972 and into 1973.

And it was the energy crisis and oil embargo in 1973 that really, really kicked off some new economic shocks. By which point the election was past…but also by which point Watergate had become a roaring beast of a White House flashpoint.

But in the summer and fall of 1972? Nixon was seen very much as a domestic policy economic…maybe not “genius” but at least “wise man”, for his actions the year before.