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As the multiple controversies exploded in Washington, the city turned jittery. Declared a high Administration official about the staff in the White House: "It's like the last days in a Berlin bunker in 1945. They're all sitting there waiting for the bombs to drop."
Some White House careers were effectively ended. Dean was isolated and certainly would have to quit, if he is not fired. Haldeman seemed hopelessly compromised, if only because many of the men in the deepest trouble at one time or other reported to him: Dean, Chapin, Strachan, Magruder. It is Haldeman's duty as chief of staff to protect the President from such disasters; instead his shop played a big hand in creating the debacle.
One man moving most frantically to clear himself was John Ehrlichman, who has long worked intimately with Haldeman and thus could be tainted. Justice Department officials say he was the source of some news leaks about others in the affair through intermediaries, and his friends were saying that he had long opposed the secretive handling of the whole scandal. Haldeman and Ehrlichman last week both retained a lawyer, who said he would "consult with them and advise them on phases of what has become known as the Watergate case."
Certainly the credibility of Press Secretary Ziegler has been shattered, although it was compromised long ago. Last week Clark Mollenhoff, the Des Moines Register's Washington bureau chief (and a former Nixon adviser), dramatized the growing feeling of many newsmen about Ziegler. At a White House press briefing, Mollenhoff contended that Ziegler had twice privately given him information about Watergate that was now shown to be untrue. "I think I have some rights to have you apologize at the present time for being inaccurate," Mollenhoff said. Replied Ziegler: "Sir, I responded to your question at that time, and my remarks stand on the record." Trembling with rage, Mollenhoff persisted: "Were you inaccurate? This is a matter of personal privilege." Ziegler said he had nothing further to say. "But you gave me misinformation, and I wrote a story, and that has to do with my credibility," protested Mollenhoff. Ziegler: "Well, sir, I will stand on the comment."
Two wings of Nixon's White House remain undipped by Watergate. There was never any indication that Henry Kissinger's national security advisers or George Shultz's economic planners were in any way tainted. Yet for the most part the President has been ill-served by the type of men he has chosen to work with him. Throughout his presidency one of his greatest weaknesses has been his inability to attract, or his unwillingness to select, men of depth and vision. He has surrounded himself in the White House with practical men whose priority qualification is loyalty. With some exceptions, they tend to be manipulators, managers and protectors rather than independent-minded advisers. They get things done—and the means do not seem to matter.
One of the great remaining mysteries about Watergate is just what these pragmatic men hoped to gain by eavesdropping on Democratic conversations and copying Democratic Party documents. The only logical explanation would seem to be that they did not really know what they would find—but that they