Richard Ben-Veniste, a Washington lawyer, was chief of the Watergate Task Force of the Watergate Special Prosecutor’s Office.
We can all accept George F. Will’s thesis [“D.C.’s darkest days,” op-ed, March 7] that the nation’s capital was in far more dire straits during President Richard Nixon’s second term than in the dysfunctional morass we are now suffering. But Will’s acceptance of Robert Bork’s self-serving claim to have been the “protector” of the Watergate investigation is a mischaracterization of history. Bork, then Nixon’s solicitor general, famously carried out the president’s order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox after Attorney General Eliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus refused in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre.
Bork’s assertion that by firing Cox he acted to protect the ongoing investigation of Watergate crimes is akin to the Army major’s claim during the Vietnam War that “it became necessary to destroy the town to save it.” Secret recordings reveal that well before the controversy surrounding the subpoenaed White House tapes, Nixon discussed with his chief of staff, Alexander Haig, his intention to fire Cox. This was part and parcel of the president’s continuing effort to obstruct the Watergate investigation.