[…] But how would the voters react if they knew the President of the United States was presiding over “a complex, far-reaching and sinister operation on the part of White House aides and the Nixon campaign organization. . . involving sabotage, forgery, theft of confidential files, surveillance of Democratic candidates and their families and persistent efforts to lay the basis for possible blackmail and intimidation.” That ugly description of Nixon’s staff operations comes from a New York Times editorial on Thursday, October 12th. But neither Nixon nor anyone else felt it would have much effect on his steady two-to-one lead over McGovern in all the national polls. Four days later the Times/Yankelovich poll showed Nixon ahead by an incredible twenty points (57 percent to 37 percent, with 16 percent undecided) over the man Bobby Kennedy described as “the most decent man in the Senate.”
“Ominous” is not quite the right word for a situation where one of the most consistently unpopular politicians in American history suddenly skryockets to Folk Hero status while his closest advisors are being caught almost daily in nazi-style gigs that would have embarrassed Martin Bormann.
How long will it be before “demented extremists” in Germany or maybe Japan, start calling us A Nation of Pigs? How would Nixon react? “No comment”? And how would the popularity polls react if he just came right out and admitted it?
Illustration by Tom Benton: Original cover art for Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72