The Nation: Acting Roles in A Fellini Script

"This is a grim city," observed Senator Jacob Javits, the New York Republican. Indeed, the reaction to the tape transcripts and the opening of the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment proceedings imposed new standards of crisis measurement in Nixonian Washington. Pressure on the White House built to a new high that seemed intolerable, yet the prospect was for more of the same.

In emergencies, a standard Washington reflex is rumor. One rumor had the President suffering a stroke (disproved by his physical presence). Another had Attorney James St. Clair quitting the White House in...