WATERGATE: The Public: Disillusioned

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Next to Nebraska, Oklahoma was Nixon's best state in the Midwest. Until a few weeks ago, people were writing letters to the editors of local newspapers comparing the President to Jesus Christ, a man persecuted for his purity. But the mood changed just after the transcripts were released. Said the Rev. John Wolf, of Tulsa's All Souls Unitarian Church: "People have seen the meanness and the ugliness behind the whole thing. Nothing could be more antithetical to our system. [The President and his men] seem to have no sense of what law and order really means. They don't seem to understand what America is."

In Kansas, the Topeka Capital-Journal broke ranks with Nixon. Wrote Publisher Oscar S. Stauffer, an activist Republican for nearly 50 years: "It's time to hand President Nixon his hat. The transcript of the tapes dips to sordid depths . . . Walls of the White House echoing with conspiracy reminds one that gangland has profaned America's most hallowed halls . . . May the President pass into oblivion and the nation again resume its true posture."


As in the Midwest, the week went fairly disastrously for Richard Nixon in the Western states. In Oregon, a former key Nixon political operative finished reading the transcripts, got up from his desk, and turned his autographed picture of Nixon to the wall. Leslie Button, a Nixon loyalist from Santa Monica who only two weeks ago was posing with Nixon in the Oval Office after giving him a petition of support from 10,000 admirers, confessed: "We got to start thinking about the welfare of the party, and where this leaves the President, I just don't know."

New Mexico G.O.P. State Chairman William Murray Ryan said bleakly: "The effect of the transcripts has been devastating." Los Angeles Republican Congressman Alphonzo Bell had mail running 55 to 45 in favor of Nixon after the President's speech. But then a second wave of letters came in reflecting reaction to the transcripts themselves. His letters were 5 to 1 against Nixon.

Republican leaders in California, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico agreed that while there remains a significant number of Nixon loyalists in the party, the majority believes Nixon should step down as quickly as possible. They also concur that many people found the transcripts too diffuse and confusing to significantly add to their previous judgments of presidential guilt or innocence. What disturbs the public, they said, was the bad language and the coarse, vindictive tone of the conversations. According to Nancy Mucken, a Portland, Ore., housewife: "I hadn't really made up my mind about Nixon and Watergate until I read the transcripts. But now I am very concerned. I think he is a very corrupt man." Whatever the truth of such suspicions, Colorado Republican State Chairman Bill Daniels undoubtedly expressed the opinion of most Americans: "The whole Watergate mess has gotten out of hand, and we've got to get it settled quickly."

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