Obviously, the world was ending: By 1971, the conclusion was unmistakable. Steve Roberts of the NYT wrote about the enveloping apocalypticism in California, where every trend began… [W]hen it came to existential terrors, Americans could choose from a banquet.
I would like to point out that apocalypticism comes naturally when your Serious Leaders of the Free World treat ‘mutually assured destruction’ as a phenomenon as natural as springtime tornadoes in Kansas or August hurricanes in Florida — devasting, unpredictable, and unavoidable. I did not know that Stephen Vincent Benet’s “By the Waters of Babylon” was published — in the Saturday Evening Post! — in 1937, or that it was written as a result of the bombing of Guernica. But even my non-sf-reading classmates in the early 1960s knew that gradeschool ‘duck and cover’ drills had been abandoned not because the threat of nuclear destruction had abated, but because it had become too publicly obvious how futile such gestures would be in the event. When “everybody knows” that the world could end with 15 minutes’ warning, it encourages political nihilism on either side of the aisle.
On Sunday, April 18, Vietnam Veterans Against the War’s John Kerry appeared on Meet the Press. Their Washington pageant began the next morning, the anniversary of the ‘shot heard ’round the world’ in 1775. Eleven hundred veterans, mostly in wrinkled fatigues, medals pinned to hippie headbands, marched to Arlington National Cemetary; five Gold Star mothers in the lead; two vets carrying the VVAW banner; then a contigent in wheelchairs and crutches, blind men walking with canes. Two mothers and two veterans approached the Tomb of the Unknowns with a wreath. The great iron gates shut in their faces…
Somewhere in the audience, Roger Ailes was taking notes, I’m sure.
The president was at first indifferent to the [Pentagon Papers] whodunit game. He had his suspects […] but he wasn’t disposed to worry about a document completed before he was inaugurated and covering events only through 1968. “Make sure we call them the Kennedy-Johnson papers,” he had told Haldeman at first, prepared to let the chips fall where they may.
Historians would debate the reasons for the president’s subsequent change of heart. They agree Kissinger was crucial in changing his boss’s mind…
But the reasons for panic weren’t really that complicated. Nixon-Kissinger diplomacy made credibly guaranteeing discretion to negotiating partners the first, even sacred, priority.
Yeah, that whole “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” piety? The sacredness of covering up was the heart of Nixon’s appeal right from the start: Cover up your feelings & ambitions (even from yourself); cover up (lie about) the reasons behind your actions; cover up your actions, because they have strayed outside the limits of lawfulness, since your lodestar is not what should be done but what can we get away with…