As President Donald Trump continues to mouth off about the Russia investigation on Twitter—he recently admitted that he’s the target of an obstruction of justice probe—some have cracked wise on Twitter about what President Richard Nixon’s Twitter account might have looked like during Watergate, had social media existed in the 1970s. “The Jews,” surely—they’d show up a lot. Not to mention Teddy and that poor drowned girl, and those goddamn hippie bums.
Really, though? Nixon liked a drink, and he’d call people in the middle of the night for company and reassurance. I even believe Henry Kissinger’s account of him talking to paintings of his predecessors. But Nixon was once the Navy’s best poker player, and my sense is that he’d sooner die than show his cards like Trump does nearly every day.
Based on my years running the @dick_nixon Twitter account, I’ve imagined how Nixon might have tweeted during the scandal that brought him down. Some of the “tweets” below are imagined, but others adapt things Nixon actually said about Watergate, in public and in private.
You’ll see a president who is often angry and vindictive, full of absurd jealousies and justifications. But he’s also capable of introspection, and is never overmatched. Nixon’s temper flares worst at the time of the Pentagon Papers—but in his darkest days he’s cool, sometimes self-pitying, the boxer determined not to fall before the bell.
Of course, in the end, he did.
They can’t and should not do this and attack the integrity of government and by God, I’m gonna fight that son of a bitching paper.
(10:46 pm – June 15, 1971. The New York Times and Washington Post publish the Pentagon Papers, which revealed America’s political and military involvement in Vietnam 1945-67. They were leaked by military analyst Daniel Ellsberg. Nixon isn’t named in them; he simply hated leakers.)
I just say we’ve got to keep our eye on the main ball. The main ball is Ellsberg.
(4:31 pm – June 29, 1971)
If Ellsberg feels the need to see a psychiatrist that is his business. Obviously there is a problem that he feels is out of hand.
(8:17 pm – September 4, 1971. Several “Plumbers,” as members of Nixon’s political espionage team were called, break into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, under orders by top domestic aide John Ehrlichman. This was not major news at the time.)
With what Johnson and the Kennedys are well known to do I would expect Larry O’Brien to change the locks.
(9:55 pm – June 18, 1972. Five “Plumbers” are caught attempting to wiretap the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex. They are later indicted by a federal grand jury, along with their handlers E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy. There is no evidence Nixon ordered the break-in or knew of it beforehand.)
It is just a comedy of errors. Bizarre. Certainly none of these people were operating on our behalf or with our consent.
(11:03 pm – June 19, 1972. The Washington Post reveals Watergate burglar James McCord’s connection to the White House.)
For 23 years, ever since the Hiss case, they have come after us with talk of “funds.” There is a fund. It is for the practice of politics.
(11:59 pm – September 29, 1972. The Washington Post reveals former Attorney General and current Nixon campaign chief John Mitchell controls a secret fund devoted to political espionage.)
Those who talk of “sabotage” have never worked to carry the Milwaukee Third Ward.
(10:24 pm – October 10, 1972. The Washington Post reveals the Watergate break-in is part of a massive political espionage campaign.)
This fellow Liddy, he’s a little nuts.
(3:18 pm – January 30, 1973. Liddy and McCord are convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping in the Watergate incident. The five burglars plead guilty. Nixon schemes to buy their silence.)
I learned of the break-in while resting in Florida. I was appalled at this senseless, illegal action. (1/7)
(9:05 pm – April 30, 1973. Nixon tells the nation that White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman and domestic aide John Ehrlichman let him down over Watergate. But he alleges no wrongdoing by them, and they are allowed to resign. Attorney General Richard Kleindeinst resigns because he is close to many in the case. White House Counsel John Dean is fired.)
I have continually asked whether there was reason to believe members of my Administration were involved. I was assured there was not. (2/7)
(9:08 pm – April 30, 1973)
I believed the reports I was getting and had faith in those giving them. (3/7)
(9:09 pm – April 30, 1973)
I have personally assumed responsibility for inquiries into Watergate. I have directed members of White House staff to testify under oath. (4/7)
(9:10 pm – April 30, 1973)
I am determined to get to the bottom of the matter, no matter who is involved. (5/7)
(9:10 pm – April 30, 1973)
Today I accepted the resignations of two of my closest associates – Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman. (6/7)
(9:14 pm – April 30, 1973)
I make no implication of wrongdoing on Bob and John’s part. They agree with me that this move is necessary to restore confidence. (7/7)
(9:15 pm – April 30, 1973)
Goddamn it, I am never going to discuss this sonofabitching Watergate thing again. Never. Never. Never. Never.
(12:37 am – May 1, 1973. An obviously upset Nixon—possibly drunk—said this in a late-night telephone call to Haldeman.)
Keep the faith. Keep the faith. By God, we are gonna win this son of a bitch.
(12:40 am – May 1, 1973)
I welcome this inquiry.
(4:43 pm – May 18, 1973. Attorney General-designate Eliot Richardson appoints former Solicitor General Archibald Cox as Watergate special prosecutor.)
In Dean, I think, you see a young man so eager to get ahead that he will do these terrible things.
(1:20 am – June 4, 1973. The Washington Post reports former White House Counsel John Dean told Senate investigators he discussed the Watergate cover-up with Nixon 35 times, and Nixon tried to buy his silence.)
I did not ask to buy Dean’s silence. It was an attempt at humor. I told him so. That is what he testified.
(1:22 am – June 4, 1973)
Col. Butterfield told the truth, as one would expect an officer to do.
(11:04 pm – July 13, 1973. Deputy White House Chief of Staff Alexander Butterfield reveals the White House taping system to Senate investigators. He was not prepared to lie for Nixon—not least, as he revealed later, because Nixon was rude to him.)
We have used tapes as other Presidents have: for the future historical record.
(11:10 pm – July 13, 1973)
What we are elected to do, we are going to do. Let others wallow in Watergate. We are going to do our job.
(5:30 pm – July 20, 1973)
Besides being the personal property of the President, the principle of executive privilege applies with greater force to tapes.
(10:26 pm – July 23, 1973. Nixon refuses to furnish the Senate Watergate Committee and special prosecutor with subpoenaed tapes.)
The tapes would, in any case, not settle the issues at hand.
(10:28 pm – July 23, 1973)
I have personally listened to a number of tapes. They are entirely consistent with what I know to be the truth.
(10:30 pm – July 23, 1973)
I had no prior knowledge of the break-in. I neither knew of nor took part in the cover-up activities.
(9:09 pm – August 15, 1973. In a hectoring speech to the nation, Nixon says the Watergate probe has gone on too long.)
A continued, backward-looking obsession with Watergate is causing this Nation to neglect matters of great importance.
(9:20 pm – August 15, 1973)
Bork acted under the law according to the rights and prerogative of the President.
(11:56 pm – October 20, 1973. During the “Saturday Night Massacre,” Nixon orders Attorney General Eliot Richardson to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson and his deputy William Ruckelshaus refuse, and are fired; Cox is fired by Solicitor General Robert Bork.)
We offered Cox a reasonable compromise that Sen. Stennis should summarize the tapes for him. This was refused.
(12:01 am – October 21, 1973, Still claiming executive privilege, Nixon proposes that infamously hard-of-hearing Mississippi Sen. John C. Stennis listen to the tapes and summarize them for Cox.)
Sen. Stennis is not “deaf.” He hears well enough for the United States Senate.
(12:02 am – October 21, 1973)
Cox, then, has no interest in protecting the Presidency. I cannot allow this to happen.
(12:04 am – October 20, 1973)
I’ve been accused of bigamy, bribery, forgery, drunkenness, everything up to murder.
(5:50 pm – November 17, 1973. Nixon tells newspapers editors he is “not a crook.” The statement is largely concerned with charges that he profited from public life, which is not true. But he also claims he didn’t obstruct justice.)
But I have never profited from public life. Never. Never.
(5:51 pm – November 17, 1973)
In salons and tearooms they think I’m on the make, you see. They aren’t used to a man who works and doesn’t scrape for them.
(5:53 pm – November 17, 1973)
I can’t say what was on the tape. But I can tell you there is an element who wants to embarrass us.
(10:05 pm – December 7, 1973. An 18 ½ minute gap is discovered on a subpoenaed tape. White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig can only explain that a “sinister force” is responsible.)
Rose Woods attends Mass all she can, sometimes daily. The girls call her “Aunt Rose.”
(9:30 pm – December 14, 1973. Nixon’s personal secretary Rose Mary Woods takes blame for the erasure, claiming it accidentally occurred while she answered the phone during transcription. Woods later testifies she may have accidentally erased up to five minutes of tape, but examination reveals up to nine separate erasures.)
Rose has been with us almost 30 years. I can’t tell you how broken up she is about it.
(9:32 pm – December 14, 1973)
In releasing the transcripts we have now provided all the evidence needed to put Watergate behind us.
(8:44 pm – April 30, 1974. Nixon releases edited tape transcripts to investigators, but not the tapes.)
In over 200,000 words not once does the President appear to obstruct justice.
(8:46 pm – April 30, 1974)
The physical tapes are the personal property of the President.
(12:58 am – May 1, 1974)
The Court’s ruling hurts the Presidency. We are disappointed but will comply.
(3:16 pm – July 24, 1974. The U.S. Supreme Court rules 8-0 that Nixon must deliver tapes and other subpoenaed materials.)
The House will not vote to impeach because the President has not committed an impeachable offense.
(12:10 pm – July 27, 1974. The House Judiciary Committee passes three Articles of Impeachment, charging Nixon with obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress.)
They sent Goldwater up here. I always respected him for believing in something. He never felt the same for me.
(11:15 pm – August 7, 1974. Sens. Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott visit the White House with House Minority Leader John Rhodes. They tell Nixon the Senate will vote to convict.)
I hope I didn’t let you down.
(11:13 pm – August 8, 1974. Nixon announced to the nation at 9 p.m. that he would resign at noon the following day.)
Always remember: others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.
(1:00 pm – August 9, 1974)
You are here to say goodbye to us, and we don’t have a good word for it in English – the best is “au revoir.” We’ll see you again.
(1:03 pm – August 9, 1974)