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Hedgecock Saga

March 17, 1985

Mayor Roger Hedgecock's determination not to resign is understandable and, in some ways, admirable. But I wonder if it has occurred to him--or to others--that his present dilemma is not without precedent.

Having supported the mayor's right to reelection in a letter published in The Times on Nov. 4, I have only recently concluded that he has had his day in court and that he should, perhaps, review the course of events in another celebrated case.

In August of 1974, President Richard Nixon was in a very similar situation. He had recently been reelected by a large majority in spite of the fact that the Watergate burglaries had already been exposed and were under investigation. He was a popular President and his second term seemed comfortably secure. Then, increasing disclosures of wrongdoing began to seriously undermine his credibility and, at one point, he even felt compelled to tell the American people on national television that he "was not a crook."

The Ervin subcommittee hearings on Watergate might well be compared to the grand jury indictment of Roger Hedgecock. Each of these tribunals produced sufficient evidence to require further litigation. The next step for President Nixon was the impeachment committee hearings, which produced even more damaging revelations. After much soul-searching on the part of the committee members, it was determined, by a sizable majority, that an impeachment trial must take place.

In the Hedgecock case, although a majority of the jurors was convinced that the mayor was guilty of the charges against him, that was not enough to convict him, and therefore another trial must take place.

Although there were, in 1974, many people who believed that Nixon was a good President in spite of Watergate, and that his leadership abilities in domestic and foreign affairs were more important than his cover-up of a minor burglary, the fact is that the evidence was so damaging to his credibility that he was forced to admit that further litigation would achieve little for him and would seriously disrupt the government. He then resigned the presidency of the United States.

I am not suggesting that Mayor Hedgecock should resign. I am simply pointing out that if one of the most skillful politicians in recent history was unable to overcome evidence that he had deceived the public, it is unlikely that the mayor will succeed.

As George Santayana observed, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."


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