Obituary: H. R. Haldeman

Harry Robbins Haldeman, businessman, advertising executive and political aide: born Los Angeles 27 October 1926; accounts executive, J. Walter Thompson 1949-59, Vice-President 1960-68; Chief of Staff, Nixon Presidential Campaign 1968; Chief, White House Staff 1969-73; Senior Vice- President, Murdock Development Co 1979-85; President, Murdock Hotels Corporation 1984-86; married 1949 Jo Horton (two sons, two daughters); died Santa Barbara, California 12 November 1993.

IN 1974, writes Leonard Miall, the late Sir Charles Curran, at that time the Director-General of the BBC, composed a topical verse. To the rhythm of 'Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, Baker's man' it went as follows:

Watergate, Watergate, Haldeman

Fake me a tape as fast as you can.

Cut it and splice it and clear it with Zee

For Ehr1ichman, Kalmbach and Mitchell and me]

Zee - Ronald Zieg1er, the White House Press Secretary - was not involved in the conspiracy to obstruct justice in the Watergate affair. On 1 March 1974 Herbert Kalmbach, President Nixon's personal attorney and chief fund- raiser, was fined dollars 10,000 and sentenced to serve between six and eighteen months in prison for violation of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act. He was small fry.

Nearly a year later the big fry, John Mitchell, John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman were sentenced, on 21 February 1975, to terms of up to eight years for perjury and for their part in attempting to cover up the Watergate break-in

They had been convicted essentially on the evidence of the tapes recorded in the basement of the White House. It was President John F. Kennedy who started the practice of secretly recording conversations with important guests when he did not wish to have a note-taker present in the Oval office. The same system was carried on under President Lyndon B. Johnson. In both their cases the President started the recording equipment by pressing a button. Under President Nixon, however, the machines were voice-activated. They recorded whenever anyone spoke. There was therefore a huge volume of the tapes. Because they had been picked up on hidden microphones the recording quality was substandard.

I attended the trial of Bob Haldeman one morning in the autumn of 1974. Everyone in the Federal Court room, Judge John Sirica, the defendant, the lawyers, the jury, the large press corps and the general public, were issued with big padded headphones with which to listen to the tapes as they were played in evidence. The court officials and the jury had been given transcripts of the tapes, without which it was virtually impossible to understand what was being played for hours on end, because the quality was so poor. The press had to buy the transcripts at dollars 60 a set, and the people in the public gallery had to do without.

The tape we listened to that day was of a conversation between Haldeman and Nixon. Nixon had had a difficult interview with his young White House Counsel, John Dean, who had threatened to reveal his foreknowledge of the Watergate burglary. Nixon was concerned about how damaging this conversation had actually been, and had asked Haldeman to listen to the tape and report. There was a long section in which Haldeman read from his notes what each of the two had said. Nixon was obviously badly worried and they then began to cook up what line to take if Dean did carry out his threat to go public.

Haldeman gave his chief soothing reassurance. 'After all, Mr President, if it comes to a crunch, it is simply Dean's word against the word of the President of the United States.' Nixon paused anxiously, and then suddenly said, 'You don't think the sonofabitch could have had a secret recorder on him, do you?'

At that point there was a roar of laughter throughout the courtroom - except in the public gallery, where those without transcripts had not been able to follow. The judge immediately called a recess. As soon as the jury had left, Haldeman's lawyer was on his feet demanding that the trial should be ended forthwith. The press, led by a reporter from the Baltimore Sun, he said, had tried to influence the jury by laughing. The people in the public gallery, however, had behaved properly. Judge Sirica wasn't wearing that one.

Richard Nixon himself was neither impeached nor tried, and was given a pardon by his successor, President Gerald Ford. Over the years Nixon has tended to blame the Democrats and the liberal press for his downfall. But the Republicans on the House of Representatives impeachment investigating committee joined in demanding that the incriminating tapes be turned over, and the conservatives on the Supreme Court insisted that the tapes be admitted in evidence. Senator Barry Goldwater, the darling of the right-wing Republicans, wrote of the disgraced President: 'He was the most dishonest individual I ever met in my life. President Nixon lied to his wife, his family, his friends, long-term colleagues in the US Senate, lifetime members of his political party, the American people, and the world.'

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform