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John Dean Weighs In On “The Last of the President’s Men”

October 16, 2015

One of those must reads if you enjoy a slice of history from the Richard Nixon years.  In part it reads….

It was Nixon’s vengeance that finally got to Butterfield. While he had seen it from his first days on the job, following Nixon’s overwhelming reelection, Butterfield overheard Haldeman and Nixon talking about going after their enemies during the second term. Alex confessed to Woodward that he had been complicit during the first term when Nixon asked him to arrange for the U.S. Secret Service to provide protection to Senator Edward Kennedy, whom Nixon thought might run against him, so they placed an agent loyal to Nixon on the protective detail who reported back to the Nixon White House. As Nixon tapes show, Butterfield’s instincts were correct, for as I learned in tape after tape when doing my last book, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It, Nixon was hell bent after the election on attacking anyone and everyone he believed had ever done him any unkindness. (It was a remarkable attitude for someone as selfishly bad-mannered as he was himself.) Alex wanted out.

Haldeman and the president agreed. He was sent to the president’s top domestic policy adviser to find a job he like outside the White House. This is not a book with laughs, rather a head shaker, but when I read what happened when Alex went to Ehrlichman, I had a “LOL” moment. When introducing Butterfield, Woodward describes him as a man who “who had been one the Air Force’s most accomplished pilots,” an officer “on the path to four stars, and maybe the top uniformed job in the Air Force.” Alex had done a lot of flying, including 98 reconnaissance missions over Vietnam. Ehrlichman suggested to Butterfield he become the head of the Federal Aviation Administration for a year before becoming Secretary of the Air Force, but I lost it when I read what Alex told Woodward, and could hear him saying it: “I felt well suited for that because I had broken so many FAA regulations in my time.” Alex also has endless stories of wild rides while flying jet planes large and small.

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