Nixon's legacy of strife
"Follow the money," Deep Throat is supposed to have advised Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. Who could have imagined that 30 years after Watergate, eight years after the death of the disgraced president, we would still be following Nixon-connected money and the discontents it has created?
For the past five years, President Nixon's daughters, Tricia Cox and Julie Eisenhower, have not talked to each other because of a bitter quarrel over the handling of money. First, it was over compensation for the presidential papers impounded by Congress when Nixon resigned in 1974. Because of the court battle over how the money would be used, most of the $18 million paid by the government went to lawyers.
Until he died in 1994, Nixon himself ran the Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation in Yorba Linda, Calif. After his death, the daughters quarreled over whether it should be run by family members as Tricia wanted, using the money for their own purposes or by a prestigious independent board, as Julie wanted. Julie eventually won out.
The latest phase in the war of the daughters has to do with a $19 million bequest to the library from Nixon's intimate friend, Bebe Rebozo. Here again, Tricia wants family control. She wants to use the money, among other purposes, to finance favorable Nixon biographies. The dispute is now the subject of court suits in California and Florida, and the Rebozo estate is holding onto the $19 million until it is established where the money should go.
Names come back from the voluminous file in the dispute that stir memories for a Watergate reporter: Miami banker Bebe Rebozo, who could spend hours with Nixon in silence, and who managed some of his illegal campaign contributions. Robert Abplanalp, a businessman friend of Nixon's, named in the Rebozo will as one of those to control his bequest. And Dwight Chapin, Nixon's appointments secretary, who managed the political dirty tricks in the 1972 campaign. A Nixon Library memo lists him as trying to get foundation money to help finance a Nixon biography.
And then the daughters, whom I remember as so visibly grief-stricken when their father said farewell to the White House in 1974, now perpetuating his legacy of strife all in the family.
Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst at National Public Radio.