In 1991, the Bush damage control line is that events relating to the 1980 "October surprise" deal of the Reagan-Bush campaign with the Iranian Khomeini mullahs of Iran to block the freeing of the US hostages are so remote in the past that nobody is interested in them any more. But in 1973, Bush thought that events of 1960 were highly relevant to Watergate. Bellino labelled Bush's charges "absolutely false." "I categorically and unequivocally deny that I have ever ordered, requested, directed, or participated in any electronic surveillance whatsoever in connection with any political campaign," said Bellino. "By attacking me on the basis of such false and malicious lies, Mr. Bush has attempted to distract me from carrying out what I consider one of the most important assignments of my life. I shall continue to exert all my efforts to ascertain the facts and the truth pertinent to this investigation." Here Bush was operating on several levels of reality at once. The implications of the Russell-Leon interstices would be suspected only in retrospect. What appeared on the surface was a loyal Republican mounting a diversionary attack in succor of his embattled president. At deeper levels, the reality might be the reverse, the stiffing of Nixon in order to defend the forces behind the break-in and the scandal. Back in April, as the Ervin committee was preparing to go into action against the White House, Bush had participated in the argument about whether the committee sessions should be televised or not. Bush discussed this issue with Senators Baker and Brock, both Republicans who wanted the hearings to be televised- in Baker's case, so that he could be on television himself as the ranking Republican on the panel. Ehrlichmann, to whom Bush reported in the White House, mindful of the obvious potential damage to the administration, wanted the hearings not televised, not even public, but in executive session with a sanitized transcript handed out later. So Bush, having no firm convictions of his own, but always looking for his own advantage, told Ehrlichman he sympathized with both sides of the argument, and was "sitting happily on the middle of the fence with a picket sticking up my you know what. I'll see you." [fn 35] But Nixon's damage control interest had been sacrificed by Bush's vacillating advocacy, and the devastating testimony of figures like Dean and McCord would have its maximum impact. Bush had talked in public about the Ervin committee during a visit to Seattle on June 29 in response to speculation that Nixon might be called to testify. Bush argued that the presidency would be diminished if Nixon were to appear. Bush was adamant that Nixon could not be subpoenaed and that he should not testify voluntarily. Shortly thereafter Bush had demanded that the Ervin committee wrap up its proceedings to "end the speculation" about Nixon's role in the coverup. "Let's get all the facts out, let's get the whole thing over with, get all the people up there before the Watergate committee. I don't believe John Dean's testimony." [fn 36] Senator Sam Ervin placed Bush's intervention against Carmine Bellino in the context of other diversionary efforts launched by the RNC. Ervin, along with Democratic Senators Talmadge and Inouye were targetted by a campaign inspired by Bush's RNC which alleged that they had tried to prevent a full probe of LBJ intimate Bobby Baker back in 1963. Later, speaking on the Senate floor on October 9, 1973, Ervin commented: One can but admire the zeal exhibited by the Republican National Committee and its journalistic allies in their desperate effort to invent a red herring to drag across the trail which leads to the truth concerning Watergate.

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