The Nation began watching the Watergate saga earlier than most news outlets, excluding, of course, The Washington Post, poking around for connections to the White House and urging the national media to pay attention to the stories before Election Day 1972. (The magazine’s coverage of the saga, from the beginning of Nixon’s political career to the battles over the Watergate legacy well into the 21st century, are contained in our collection Smoking Gun:The Nation on Watergate, 1952–2010, published last year.) The following editorial by editor Carey McWilliams, “The Mafia Metaphor,” was published in the issue of July 10, 1972.

Whatever the motive for the “breaking and entering,” it was not burglary, third rate or otherwise. The known facts that have leaked out warrant [Democratic National Committee Chairman] Lawrence O’Brien’s statement that there is “developing a clear line to the White House.” The attitude of Nixon, [former Attorney General John] Mitchell and [Attorney General Richard] Kleindienst to wire tapping and bugging for “domestic security” suggests that they would be quite capable of making use of intelligence material improperly obtained by such methods. Of course they would never, never authorize such methods nor would they care to know too much about them in advance. Nervous and upset as Martha Mitchell was when interviewed at the Westchester Country Club, she may well have had a symbolic perception of the truth when she complained of “those dirty things” the politicians do and of the “cops and robbers game” that certain Washington politicians play. She had reason to complain for she has been rather roughly treated of late, what with those guards supplied by the Committee to Re-Elect the President snatching a phone from her hands in Newport Beach, Calif., and sticking a needle into her behind—as she put it. The word Mafia may, of course, no longer be used in a way that implies a smear against persons of Italian descent, but it is an apt metaphor all the same and may properly be applied to antics of the kind that took place in the Democratic Committee headquarters at the Watergate building.

June 17, 1971

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