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Take a fresh look at Watergate

June 22, 2007

Re "Why Watergate matters," Opinion, June 17

I worked on Richard Nixon's 1968 campaign and voted for him in 1972. Later, as a National Archives employee, I was responsible for screening Nixon's White House tapes and files to see what could be released to the public. I regret that Nixon, as he put it, gave his enemies a sword. He let me down. But what a president does in office is influenced by factors far more complex than those Elizabeth Drew describes.

The people who work in the White House are neither gods nor demons, just human beings as in any other office. Isolation, relentless attacks and terrible stress can make them lose perspective, even falter. In Nixon's case, unfortunately, he apparently believed that it was best to do unto others before they do unto you.

I met Nixon's former chief of staff, H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, in the 1980s. I respected the courage with which he looked back at his actions. In an insightful oral history interview, Haldeman explained to us the effect of his staffing the White House with young, loyal aides. He also shared his perspective with historians at a Hofstra University conference. Such resources could provide an interesting basis for a fresh look at Watergate.

MAARJA KRUSTEN

Arlington, Va.

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