The Nation: The Man Who Converted to Softball

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Others have greeted Colson's transformation with cynicism and disbelief, both justified by his unsavory past. Colson, after all, in Nixon's own words, "would do anything" to help the President. "There was no warmth in the man," says John J. McCarthy, a Massachusetts conservative whom Colson helped in an unsuccessful bid for the Republican senatorial nomination in 1970. "He was a computerized being who weighed everything in terms of what it would mean for the White House." Adds a lawyer for one of the Watergate defendants, summing up the suspicions that Colson's dramatic guilty plea aroused in many: "Any man who would walk over his grandmother for Nixon would go to prison for him too." Colson himself was emphatic in his unswerving allegiance to Nixon, once saying, "When they lower me six feet under, I will go away a Nixon loyalist."

Hatchet Man. Indeed, Colson's entire career has been marked by the kind of unrelenting ambition that led him to become the White House hatchet man. As a teen-ager in Boston, he defiantly rejected a full scholarship at Harvard as he thought it too radical a university and because officials there told him, "No one has ever turned down a full scholarship at Harvard." He went to Brown instead. A man in a hurry, he became, at 22, the youngest company commander in the Marines. He married young and had three children (that marriage ended in divorce, but he remains on friendly terms with his first wife). At 27, he was the youngest administrative assistant on Capitol Hill, in the office of Massachusetts Senator Leverett Saltonstall, while attending 'the Georgetown University law school at night.

Colson went to the 1968 Nixon campaign as chairman of the Key Issues Committee. He was then making $100,000 a year as a Washington lawyer, but he gladly took a 60% pay cut to join the

White House staff in 1969. Early on he complained to colleagues that Nixon did not even know who he was. But Colson, whose conservative bent accorded with the President's, eventually became an almost daily visitor to the Oval Office. An initial key to his success: he effectively wooed some important labor leaders to the White House side by inviting them for chats with the President. Later he predicted correctly that Nixon would win large chunks of the labor vote in the 1972 election.

He also made conscientious efforts to please the President. When Nixon remarked once that he did not know what the stock market had done that day, Colson arranged for subordinates to get readings every half hour on the latest stock averages.

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