The Beginning of the End

30 April marks that day in 1973 on which John Ehrlichman resigned his position at the White House as the Watergate break-in and cover up scandal intensified.

John Ehrlichman was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1925. He would attend UCLA on the GI Bill (having served as a B-17 Navigator in WWII) and would later graduate from Stanford University Law School. He would interrupt a successful practice as one of the nation’s leading experts in land use and zoning laws, to sign on as an Advance Man for the 1968 Presidential campaign of Richard Nixon.

After the successful election, Ehrlichman was installed as Nixon’s chief domestic advisor. Ehrlichman would be responsible for the creation of a group known as the “The Plumbers” a covert special investigative unit, whose goal was to prevent leaks of confidential government material and thwart White House opponents. One of the most famous actions of the group, in addition to the burglary of Democratic National Committee Headquarters, was the break-in of the office of psychiatrist Lewis J. Fielding, who had been treating Daniel Ellsberg, who had previously leaked a treasure trove of documents on the war in Vietnam, known as the ‘Pentagon Papers’, to the New York Times.

During his time at the White House, Ehrlichman would be responsible for adding a number of colorful phrases to the American political lexicon, including, in regard to divulging potentially damaging material to the media, “modified limited hangout” and in speaking of how to react to the confirmation hearings of the  poorly received nominee for FBI Director, L. Patrick Grey, Ehrlichman commented that he should be left to “twist slowly, slowly in the wind”.

Ehrlichman would serve 18 months in Federal prison for conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice. Disbarred due to the felony conviction, Ehrlichman could no longer practice law and undertook a successful career authoring several articles and books, including his best-selling memoirs of the Nixon era, ‘Witness to Power’.

The following short clip features Ehrlichman jousting with Senator Herman Tallmadge (D-Ga.) during the Senate hearings on the Watergate scandal…