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While congressional Republicans were understandably less committed to an all-out impeachment inquiry, the disenchantment with Nixon in G.O.P. ranks was extensive, augmented by the outpouring of anti-Nixon mail that the Republicans were receiving in a volume that astonished them. Only a majority vote is required in the House to bring the impeachment charges—the equivalent of an indictment. The charges would then be tried in the Senate, acting as the equivalent of a jury. The complex procedure requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove the President from office.
Throughout the disastrous week, Nixon merely reacted to these historic events rather than controlled them. For the nation, the events constituted an incredible, frightening, novelesque seven days in October.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 2
News of Nixon's reckless dismissal of Cox, the resignation of Richardson, the firing of Ruckelshaus and the President's refusal either to comply immediately with the order to produce his tapes or appeal to the Supreme Court created massive headlines in Sunday newspapers. The previous night, the television networks had carried special programs on the events and reported heavy and irate telephone response to what Nixon had done. Millions, too, had been moved by the previous day's televised objections to Nixon's tapes decrees by the deceptively mild-mannered Cox. Public anger was rising.
The depth of feeling was not yet appreciated in the White House. Nixon's aides continued to assure him that the crisis was under control. His domestic affairs adviser, Melvin Laird, appeared soothingly on Meet the Press to predict that there would be no serious impeachment moves. The President's tapes compromise, he said blandly, was "a tremendous victory" for Cox, but the prosecutor had demanded "total surrender."
This coincided with the claim to newsmen by other White House aides that it was Cox who had caused all the trouble, not Nixon. By refusing to accept the Nixon plan or bow to Nixon's restrictions against further pursuit of the tapes, the line went, Cox had made his firing mandatory. Actually, these aides had been almost certain that Cox would balk but hoped that he would resign quietly. Nixon, in fact, had been fed up with Cox for a long time; he was too independent and was pushing too hard for evidence of any crimes committed by Nixon officials (see story page 23).
Away for the Veterans Day weekend, many members of Congress were outraged but wanted to talk to their colleagues before deciding what steps to take. Yet the mood was typified by Democratic Senator Robert C. Byrd, a conservative from West Virginia. "I'm profoundly shocked," he declared. "The President has defied the courts, defied Congress ... This sounds like a Brownshirt operation 30 years ago; these are Gestapo tactics."
Outside the ousted special prosecutor's office, where Watergate criminal files were guarded by FBI agents at the time, Consumer Activist Ralph Nader posed near a protest sign: SAVE THE PEOPLE'S EVIDENCE FROM THE BURGLAR-IN-CHIEF. From the pulpit of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Manhattan, Paul Moore Jr.,