College professor Stanley Kutler, who filed the lawsuit which forced the release of Richard Nixon’s tapes and who published a book titled “Abuse of Power,” died last week.
When the New York Times published an obituary of Kutler, who was 80, it chose to gloss over a serious breach of ethics which will always invalidate Kutler’s claim to being a historian and reveal him as a Nixon-hater and partisan.
“An independent historian, Peter Klingman, criticized the book, arguing that Professor Kutler had edited the tapes to present a more benign portrait of John W. Dean III, the president’s counsel,” The Times wrote. “But The American Historical Review rejected Mr. Klingman’s article, and Professor Kutler said any mistakes in the arduous process of transcribing the scratchy tapes were inadvertent. A number of other historians agreed that they were inconsequential.”
The Times itself put the story on page one in 2009, but withered under establishment criticism of the story.
In fact, what Kutler did in February 1997 was far more egregious. Here’s how at Texas A&M historian Luke Nichter, co-author of “The Nixon Tapes 1971, 1972,” reported it:
Klingman accuses Kutler of knowingly conflating two tape transcripts from March 16, 1973, both of which contained discussions between President Nixon and Counsel to the President John Dean about managing the Watergate cover-up. Kutler did indeed append an excerpt from a morning conversation in the Oval Office to a transcript that begins with an excerpt from an entirely different telephone conversation from the evening of the same day. That fact is no longer in dispute, although it is unclear how or why Kutler conflated these conversations. Klingman argues, that as a result of Kutler’s conflation and selective editing, Dean appeared to be much less involved in the cover-up than he really was. Kutler actually combined two distinct conversations that occurred nine hours apart on March 16, 1973, in his book “Abuse of Power.”
In Abuse of Power, Kutler leaves out a critical Nixon/Dean conversation material from March 13, 17, and 20. All of these conversations, coincidentally or not, were devastating to Dean. They show that not only was Dean one of the original planners of the “intelligence operation” that led to the break-in, but that he hired Liddy in part because of Liddy’s successful break-in at the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist.
Fred Graboske, head of the Nixon Tape Project for the National Archives (NARA), writes:
To conflate 2 transcripts would require literal or electronic cutting and pasting. This is a deliberate act. Of course, one could imagine a scenario in which the physical pages of more than one transcript (say, those for March 16) were scattered on a desk and accidentally merged, despite the conversation identifiers and page numbering. However, I assume that the court reporters, who prepared the transcripts provided them in both electronic and physical format, so that a diligent author could check his work with the physical transcripts against the electronic form.
This “accident” scenario implies a level of sloppiness on the part of the researcher/author that casts a pall not only over the publication in question, but over the entire corpus of his work.
I choose not to believe that of Dr. Kutler. He states in his forward that he is “ … aware of my responsibility for accuracy” and that “… there is no distortion of the thrust or intent of the passages.” The conflation of the two transcripts demonstrates that he failed in that responsibility.
As Graboske says:
By choosing to publish only portions of the Nixon/Dean conversations, Dr. Kutler asks us to trust his historical judgment on relative importance…the danger here is one of lack of context. To understand Nixon and his actions with regard to Watergate, these conversations should be seen in the context of other conversations he had on these topics, including those, which Dr. Kutler chose not to include, such as March 13. A portion selected for publication is torn from the context of the rest of the conversation. This is a problem inherent with such a “highlights of Watergate” book: the selections could be seen as agenda-driven.
The archivist also told the New York Times: “In the history profession, you never change the original evidence; Dr. Kutler has changed the original evidence. I spent 12 years listening to the tapes,” he said, contending that no one could mistake the evening and morning recordings as being part of the same conversation. “I don’t know why he did it, but what he did was deliberate.
Who should then come to Kutler’s defense in the Daily Beast but Kutler’s “good friend,” John Dean. Dean seeks to vilify anyone who questions his self-serving version of Watergate as a “conspiracy theorist” but says “I have no idea if Kutler conflated two transcripts.”
As I point out in my book Nixon’s Secrets, Dean repeats Kutler’s subterfuge in his new book, truncating or omitting conversations with Nixon on March 13, 17 and 20 that reveal him urging Nixon, his client, to commit perjury and then structuring the cover-up. He’s busted.
There’s more bad news for Dean. The aforementioned Luke Nichter and historian Douglas Brinkley, authors of “The Nixon Tapes 1971, 1972” will shortly publish a book of all the 1973 tape transcripts and Dean will not be shielded.
Houston Lawyer Douglas Caddy, who worked in Dean’s White House office, has come forward in his upcoming autobiography to say Dean directed the pay-off to Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt.
The oral interviews conducted by Silent Coup author Len Colodny, who Dean tried to dismiss as “a retired liquor salesman turned Watergate buff” have been placed at Texas A&M University, where they will be available to scholars. All the major and minors figures of Watergate are interviewed.
These tapes include proof that a leg man for Dean, private investigator Tony Ulasewicz, cased out the Watergate six weeks before the break in. He was acting at Dean’s direction, proving Dean’s prior knowledge. Dean’s story wears thin, revealing him as The Watergate Weasel.
Stanley Kutler is dead and disgraced and John Dean is busted.