Monday, August 27, 2007

Today's NYT profile of Fred Thompson quotes Lowell P. Weicker, former Republican senator from Connecticut, on Thompson's involvement in the Watergate Committee:

To Lowell P. Weicker, the committee Republican who had most actively pursued Mr. Nixon, Mr. Thompson’s late awakening was just that. From day one, he said, Mr. Thompson was the president’s “errand boy.”

“As matters changed and it became increasingly obvious that the White House was standing on quicksand, Thompson himself evolved,” he said. “But the measure of the man was in the early days of Watergate.”

What this story doesn't say is how testy the relationship between Weicker and Thompson could get. In his memoir of the Watergate days, At That Point in Time, Thompson had some early conflicts with Weicker. These conflicts culminated in a shouting match over the phone. Thompson blamed Weicker's office for the leaking of a lot of committee business to the press (press leaks--and their political intent--are a recurring theme of At That Point in Time). So at one point, Thompson, as minority counsel, forbade another Republican Watergate staffer, Bill Shure, from attending (non-public) interviews without Thompson's express permission; Shure used to work in Weicker's office and often provided information to that office that was later leaked to the press. Weicker was not pleased (from page 55 of At That Point in Time):
Weicker exploded; he said he would send Shure where and when he pleased and that I would not interfere. When I described several incidents in which confidential material had "found its way" out of his office, he said this was not true. If he didn't know what was going on in his office, I replied, he was the only person on Capitol Hill who didn't. The conversation continued going downhill, and before long I was standing at my desk engaged in an all-out shouting match.
Eventually, each was "almost incoherent with anger." While their relationship somewhat improved after this argument and Washington life is peppered with angry words, this argument does suggest some possible tension between Thompson and Weicker. And Thompson's secretary had told him that she, in all her years on the Hill, had only heard one other staffer talk to a senator that way....