The New York Times
WASHINGTON, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas announced yesterday that an agreement has been reached between Senate Republicans and President Richard M. Nixon, granting the president express statutory authority to order politically motivated burglaries and cover ups, subject to congressional oversight (all break-ins must be reported to Congress within six months following the end of a president’s final term in office, although this deadline may be extended by up to 80 years if either the outgoing or the incoming president certifies that doing so is in the national interest).
“This very tight oversight function is very important here,” Senator Olympia Snowe, moderate Republican from Maine, said. “They were tough, tough negotiations, but in the end President Nixon had to give ground.”
“The real problem here,” said Roberts, “was with the original drafting of the burglary and obstruction of justice statutes, which failed to take into account the president’s inherent authority, pursuant to Article II of the Constitution, to do pretty much whatever he damn well pleases.”
In a related development, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced that, effective immediately, he is disbanding the Senate Watergate Committee. “What we need now,” Frist continued, “is to do the people’s business, not engage in political witch-hunts.”
Frist also endorsed Attorney General John Mitchell’s refusal to appoint a special prosecutor in the Watergate affair, or to remove himself from the case. The mere fact that Mitchell is one of the principal targets of the investigation, Frist insisted, doesn’t mean he can’t be fair.
Connecticut Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman agreed, adding, “I think it’s time we moved on.”
In a related development, in a Rose Garden ceremony, President Nixon awarded Watergate mastermind G. Gordon Liddy the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.
In other news, two young Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reported to the federal minimum security prison in Lompoc, California yesterday to begin serving their five year sentences for violations of the Espionage Act, arising out of their receipt of top secret Watergate related documents.
Also yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Arlen Specter, announced that his committee will not hold hearings into the burglary of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. The White House has staunchly defended the break-in, contending it helped uncover crucial, though still publicly undisclosed, information that led directly to Ellsberg’s designation as an enemy combatant and his subsequent incarceration at Guantanamo Bay.
Specter, visibly angered, strongly denied Democratic allegations that White House pressure had played a role in his decision. “Everyone knows,” said Specter, “that I’m as independent a person as you’ll find in the Senate.”
As additional evidence that the Watergate scandal is losing steam, NBC’s Meet the Press moderator, Tim Russert, speaking at a conference yesterday, said, “I think this is just an inside the Beltway obsession. It hasn’t caught fire with average Americans.” NBC commentator and Hardball host, Chris Matthews agreed, adding, “The Democrats had better be careful on this or they’ll find themselves on the receiving end of one hell of a backlash.”
In unrelated news, employees at the Library of Congress reported yesterday witnessing a copy of John Kennedy’s book, Profiles in Courage, spontaneously burst into flames. “It was almost as though it just couldn’t take it anymore,” a bemused librarian told The Times.