Texas Two-Step: Nixon nominates Connally as VP in 1973

Reading the whole transcript of that is bonkers, presidential libraries are awesome. This is my favourite part though, a great big chunk of removed lines which is just hilarious.

But--this is, this is once when you'd like for people to testify. (Unintelligible/REMOVED).
(Unintelligible/REMOVED). (Unintelligible/REMOVED). (Unintelligible/REMOVED). (Unintelligible/REMOVED).
I don't think you should (unintelligible)... (Unintelligible)
...you’re an inside man.
I shouldn't. I'd love to but...
I'd just stay out of it, uh, all there is to
(Unintelligible). I want (unintelligible).
Oh, should be (unintelligible).
(Unintelligible) could kill him. But I just think, ya know, sometimes the uh, you may have your chance later on. (Unintelligible) how we (tape distortion). The Press (unintelligible) they know goddamn well. (Unintelligible/REMOVED). Well, go right out and answer these questions for now (unintelligible).
The mark of a good author is knowing how to edit. :cool:
The whole country, really, owes a tremendous and direct debt to Timothy Naftali. He walked into the Nixon Library as its new director in the early Aughts when it was a backwater of whitewashing and boosterism and turned it into one of the greatest presidential archives. He turned over all the rocks, let it all ooze out, and catalogued every creeping crawling iota, supervising, sponsoring, and indeed writing several illuminating books on it himself. The historian's craft doesn't have that many *actual* heroes but he is one of them.
A brief apology...

I know what I want the next chapter to say, but I've hit writer's block in how I want to say it. I deeply apologize and hope I can find my words soon, because I feel like this story has hit its stride and want to keep it moving.
A brief apology...

I know what I want the next chapter to say, but I've hit writer's block in how I want to say it. I deeply apologize and hope I can find my words soon, because I feel like this story has hit its stride and want to keep it moving.
Take your time. I'm most impressed with the quality of your writing, never mind the POD (which is interesting, too!) Thank you for making this.
A brief apology...

I know what I want the next chapter to say, but I've hit writer's block in how I want to say it. I deeply apologize and hope I can find my words soon, because I feel like this story has hit its stride and want to keep it moving.
Take your time. I'm most impressed with the quality of your writing, never mind the POD (which is interesting, too!) Thank you for making this.
What neopeius said.
April 5, 1974 (part 2)
Many a politician wishes there were a law to burn old records.

--Will Rogers

“I’ve heard the President has a new favorite flavor of ice cream: ImPEACHment.

--Johnny Carson

Jack Brooks hadn’t held much regard for Peter Rodino over the past year. The combative ex-Marine thought the Judiciary Chairman had gone soft in his older age. Rodino was nearing 65, while Brooks was a chipper 52, and through most of 1973, Brooks had driven the pace of impeachment inside the caucus. Rodino had not sprung into action until after the Saturday Night Massacre, when he was finally convinced the President had descended into full unlawfulness. Brooks had receded to the background over the past few months, but he had not stopped his work—drafting articles of impeachment that were clear and precise, nailing down the conduct of Richard Nixon in such a way that it would be extremely difficult for the ten to fifteen Republicans that would be needed for a Senate conviction. The fact that the Judiciary Committee was convening on short notice on a Friday afternoon made Brooks think that he was about to get a reason for an article of impeachment, perhaps the defining article.

As the members of the committee filed into Judiciary’s main hearing room in 2141 Rayburn, John Doar was seated at the witness table, a position both unusual and uncomfortable for the attorney. Attorneys rarely are called to testify, and when they do, it is typically when they are implicated in a crime themselves. Doar wasn’t a criminal, but on balance, he’d still rather be the one asking questions instead of answering them. The chairman gaveled the closed session to order, and asked Doar if he was ready to proceed. The special counsel affirmed he was, and Rodino directed him to explain what he had brought with him. Every member had been told to bring their transcript binders for the days in question, which alerted them to the content, if not the substance, of what was going to happen. Brooks knew pretty quickly there was something damning, for his part, and he started skimming the June 23rd transcript first while handing the 20th to his chief of staff before they came down. The Texas congressman kept reading as they walked to the committee hearing room, and found the killer conversation. The other members had wondered why Brooks was so happy to be in a special session on a Friday afternoon, but they knew right away, because he cut in before Doar got a word out of his mouth.

“Mr. Chairman, excuse me, but I think I know why we’re here and why Mr. Doar is here, and that’s because he’s found a transcript that contains information that proves the President is neck deep in Watergate. In fact, I think if everyone turns to page four of the second tape from June 23rd, 1972, you’ll see pretty quickly why there’s a Friday afternoon special closed hearing,” Brooks said. Everyone’s head swiveled towards Brooks as he read off the “chapter and verse,” while Doar stared at Brooks in disbelief. How did you figure it out that fast? Most everyone on the committee was a lawyer, and other than a few muttered “holy shits,” the silence was overwhelming. As heads began popping up, Brooks was wearing a bigger grin than he’d walked in with. “So, Mr. Doar, if you were prosecuting still, would this transcript be good enough for a conviction on charges of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice?”

“Congressman, I can’t imagine any jury in the country reading this as anything but an effort to stop a lawful investigation of a crime. You folks all know what my job was in the Kennedy Administration. This is a gross abuse of power. Even when all those rumors went around that the Mob had helped Jack win the election by messing with votes in Chicago, never once did he call Bobby up and say, “Now, listen, Bobby, if you keep investigating Hoffa and Giancana, it’s going to destroy my presidency.” All of us at Justice went full-tilt after the corruption of the Teamsters and the mob bosses behind it, even though we could at any time have come across something that turned a rumor into fact. That’s how a president is supposed to act. Instead, the President chose to almost immediately try to get the CIA to wave off the FBI, and we already heard testimony last year about how the acting director flat-out destroyed evidence in this case. Beyond that, though, there’s one more piece to this situation. Leon Jaworski came to see the chairman prior to this hearing. He informed the chairman and myself that the President admitted to having destroyed the subpoenaed tape from June 20th around the time of the Cox subpoena, and Jaworski is willing to testify to this if necessary. I do not have to tell you how grave an act that is. You can see what is discussed on this June 23rd tape, so the tape of June 20th was likely even more explicit in its evidence of obstruction. With all this evidence in front of you, if you don’t impeach, Congress might as well all go home and let this country become a monarchy,” Doar said.

Normally, Nixon’s defenders would’ve spoken up at this point, as they had for months now, but the glum looks on their faces showed that they knew it was a lost cause. Brooks pulled a sheet of paper out from his briefcase, asking to make a motion. Rodino approved the request. The ex-Marine, reading slowly in the command voice of the Marine colonel he had been up until two years ago, declared the words that would ring around the world that night.

“While serving in his capacity as President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon did, on June 23rd, 1972, conspire with his chief of staff H.R. Haldeman to obstruct the investigation of the June 17th, 1972 burglary and wiretapping attempt at the Democratic National Committee; and that in order to obstruct the investigation, the President did abuse the power of his office to protect his associates from the legal consequences of having ordered the burglary of the Democratic National Committee. The President also, at some time during October 1973, destroyed an audiotape that was under subpoena by the office of special counsel. Furthermore, presidential aides and Cabinet officials, with the knowledge of the President, willfully and illegally obstructed the prosecution of the Watergate burglars. This obstruction was furthered by the paying of bribes to defendants in return for silence, and by the actions of White House Counsel John W. Dean and acting director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, L. Patrick Gray, both of whom destroyed evidence to protect the President.

Such actions carry the gravest import to the preservation of this nation of laws, and strike at the very heart of the democratic republic. The sanctity of our democratic processes and of our status as a nation of laws, not men, cannot survive such an assault unchallenged. Therefore, on this day, April 5th, 1974, pursuant to its power delegated by Article I of the United States Constitution, the House of Representatives declares the following:

RESOLVED, That Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanours, and that this article of impeachment is to be exhibited to the Senate.”

Rodino solemnly intoned, “The motion has been presented to the committee, and I second it. May the Clerk please call the roll.” Every single Democrat voted yes, although some, like Walter Flowers, seemed overcome by the severity of the event and their voices quavered as they spoke their “Aye.” The real surprises came on the Republican side. Eight Republicans bolted, just under half of their party’s membership of the committee. Yes votes came from Hamilton Fish, William Cohen, Lawrence Hogan, Caldwell Butler, Robert McClory, Tom Railsback, Carlos Moorhead (representing part of an increasingly liberal Los Angeles County), and, shockingly, Charles Wiggins. The wall of party support around the President was cracking apart, with Wiggins’ vote, tallied near the very end, causing heads on both sides of the party divide to whiplash. When the tally was complete, Rodino banged his gavel. “The article of impeachment is passed, and shall be transmitted to the Speaker for scheduling of the full House vote. This hearing is adjourned.”

Members filed out, greeted by an overwhelming amount of reporters. Most of them refused to comment. Barbara Jordan simply said in a mournful tone, “This is a sad day for our republic,” and walked away. Rodino was mobbed by the press, and he would only say that the Speaker would be making a statement later today and he was not at liberty to comment until that time. While the focus was on the Judiciary chair, one of the committee aides was headed through back hallways to make his way to the Speaker’s office to present the impeachment article. In this case, the aide didn’t go to the Capitol Building, where the media had stakeouts in front of the Speaker’s office, but rather his constituent office, which was a short walk from the hearing room inside the Rayburn Building. Within a few minutes, the aide presented the signed document to the Speaker and departed. Carl Albert sat behind his desk, reading and re-reading the document. Impeachment. It had only happened to one president in nearly two hundred years of self-government. With the committee passing this bill, there had to be a vote now in the full House, which would almost certainly pass. Either this will unify the nation behind our democratic principles or totally tear us apart, and the odds are 6-5 and pick ‘em. God help us all.

The Speaker picked up his phone. He had two calls to make: one to Mansfield to let him know the balloon had gone up, and the other to his press secretary to get the media prepped for a conference in the press room of the Rayburn building. He called his press aide first, since that was the easier of the two. The call with the Senate Majority Leader brought a bit of surprise with it. Mansfield couldn’t believe that it had happened so fast after the arrival of the transcripts, and Albert didn’t have a good answer, just that Doar had found something, took it to Rodino, and the committee vote was bipartisan. Mansfield’s ears perked up at that last part. He would have to wrangle the votes, get some Republicans to move over the party line, and had been worried for months about it. There ain’t nothing worse that could happen than an acquittal after we went through the process of impeaching Nixon. The leftist pitchforks would be out in a hurry, ready to skewer us all. If Rodino had eight yes votes out of the committee from the GOP, it must be awful for Nixon. The courtly Montanan thanked his House counterpart for the call and hung up. Albert took a deep breath, rose from his desk, and began the trek to the press area. It was time to go face the cameras and tell them what happened. He’d spend the weekend going over the calendar with O’Neill and figure out when to schedule the vote. Regular order couldn’t just stop, not with budget bills and Vietnam issues and all sorts of stuff in the lineup.

The Speaker pulled the door open to the press room. In his familiar Okie twang, he began speaking towards the cameras, unaware that it was going live on the networks thanks to a pool feed agreement. “Good evening. A short time ago, I received a communication from the House Judiciary Committee which informed me that they had held a vote on an article of impeachment. That article passed the committee 29-9, and so it is my sol—my sad duty to announce that the House of Representatives will be voting on impeachment as a collective body before the end of the month. If the vote is yes, then the Senate will hold the trial of the President. I’ve already called Senate Majority Leader Mansfield so he can begin preparations as necessary, and he will be in touch with Minority Leader Scott so we can move forward in a unified manner, keeping with the letter and spirit of the Constitution regarding this serious manner. I have to say, I’m terribly sorry it has come to this, but we…[here the Speaker’s voice shook as he stifled the urge to cry] will do our duty as representatives of these several states, and hope that we act with the dignity and patriotism that the Founders would have wished for. Thank you all very much for coming today.”

Albert walked away without taking a question. The White House correspondents, glued to the television in their press area inside the West Wing, did a volte-face towards Ron Ziegler’s office, only to find the door locked. Ziegler was hiding inside, having no forewarning whatsoever that his boss’s political life had lurched suddenly towards the cliff, and no desire to face the horde without instructions. The President was in Key Biscayne with Gerald Warren, the deputy press secretary, in tow, and only a few poolers had made the trip, as most suspected, rightly so, that the action would be in D.C. It had happened a lot quicker than anyone expected, leaving both the media and the White House scrambling. One question ricocheted around America, “What would the President do about this and when would he do it?”
April 5, 1974 (part 3)
"Those sons of bitches! Those lousy, ungrateful sons of bitches! After all I've done for them over the years, they voted to impeach me!" Gerald Warren, deputy press secretary, was nervously looking around the living room of Richard Nixon's house in Key Biscayne, wondering if he'd have to duck behind furniture if his boss began throwing things, which seemed a distinct possibility at the moment. Rage had long been part of the Nixon personality. This was about five steps above rage. If a man's anger could have manifested itself as a nuclear bomb, Nixon's would have been the warhead on a Titan II--for that matter, the missile itself, with its toxic, volatile fuel, also fit the persona of the 37th president of the United States. John Osborne, the legendary Nixon watcher at The New Republic, would write in a column after Nixon left office, "Even in the first years of his presidency, reporters who followed and observed Nixon as closely as I tried to, did so in part because, way down, there was a feeling that he might go bats in front of them at any time." This was one of the moments the reporters hoped to see, prayed to see, or, as Hunter S. Thompson did, raised toasts to the idea of a public meltdown with anyone that would listen to him.

Warren meekly stammered out, "I....uh.....Mr. President, I wouldn't...uh...get too upset about it. The full House has to approve the articles, not just the far lefties on the Judiciary Committee who've been after you for three years now. I think you'll be okay." Nixon shot Warren a look that would kill, his deep, sunken eyes a bleary red from the scotch he'd already consumed that evening even before he'd seen the vote tallies. "Are you blind and deaf, Jerry? Because I just watched eight Republicans, even Wiggins, who'd always been with me until today, vote to impeach me. I just heard that my attorney, who quit on me, has supposedly told Doar that I destroyed evidence! The President, accused like a common criminal on national television of a common crime! You know why they’re doing that, why my party and my own lawyer are turning on me? They think I'm beaten and they're running off the ship like the rats they are. We won the greatest landslide ever, Jerry! I crushed McGovern eighteen months ago, and by God, I'll go and find some primary challengers and crush every last one of these cowards that thinks they can shiv me and slink away without consequence! These goddamn pricks are going to pay for this, Jerry, you just watch me." The deputy could only nod, his ability to reply severely hindered by his fear of the man in front of him. While they were of equal size and Warren had the advantage of youth, Warren was a quiet, prayerful type respected by the press and Nixon was a raging lunatic these days, worse than he'd ever been before. There were rumors going about, denied by both the President and the First Lady, that Nixon had struck Pat during a heated argument a week ago and that the Secret Service had seen her covering up a black eye with makeup. Warren prayed they weren't true.

"What should we tell the press, sir?"

"You're going to go out there and tell them that this was a bunch of far-left partisans that engineered this vote, and that the Republican members of the committee were simply too surprised by what they read to react properly, ambushed on a Friday afternoon with a surprise session and quick vote. I'll win in the full House vote and then impeachment will be dead forever. Oh, and that I will never, ever, ever quit. Those buzzards have been after me for twenty-five years, and they aren't getting my carcass yet, by God!" Nixon slammed his fist into an open palm and stalked out of the room, in search of his scotch bottle. An AP photographer with a new long-range lens would get a glimpse of the solitary president, roaming the beach in his suit, left hand in his pants pocket, right hand holding the scotch tumbler, just staring off into the waves. The photo became instantly famous after running on the front page of the Miami Herald the next day, eventually winning the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for news photography.

nixon key biscayne_RS.jpg
nixon on beach.jpg

LEFT: Nixon's Key Biscayne condo as it appeared in 1969. The U.S. military would later add a $400,000 helicopter pad and other security measures at taxpayer expense.
RIGHT: The famous photo of Nixon on the beach, lost in thought over his legal troubles and impending political demise.

Back in Texas for the weekend, John Connally wasted little time boarding a private jet back to Washington, so he could begin pinging his network of friends and former aides on Capitol Hill, trying to discern what, if any, support the President had left. Most senators had left town and were on airplanes when the bombshell hit, only finding out after landing at home what had happened, but in the House, where Nixon was faced with overwhelming Democratic strength, a large amount were still in town, their lesser salaries not allowing for traveling back and forth. Outside of those in Amtrak commuter range (the mid-Atlantic, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts reps), most Congress(wo)men were in town, and better yet for Connally’s purposes, they were the ones from middle and small-town America. The farmers, the shopkeepers, the diner owners, the mechanics, the truck drivers, the housewives in their Kmart and Walmart clothing—these were the ones whose representatives would determine the fate of the President in the House, and if the vote were overwhelming, the Senate would think about their own hides first. The vice president started out in his own party, dialing up John Rhodes, the Minority Leader in the House, along with whip Bob Michel of Illinois, and asking to meet with them to discuss the case. The GOP leaders were unsure as to whether Connally was doing this to judge his prospects of moving up a rank or if it were Nixon using Connally as his intermediary—either way, they determined to speak and act cautiously. Arriving at the Naval Observatory, the new home for the Vice President, its refurbishment sped up via some private investment by Connally and the movers barely having finished getting the furniture in hours before, the threesome walked into the den, a fire already going and the bar already immaculately set up. That last part owed to the Second Lady’s watchfulness over her husband, a marriage coming up on thirty years, and one that hadn’t cooled over time as Pat and Richard Nixon’s did.

“Alright, gentlemen, I need you to shoot straight with me—is the President getting impeached with or without the help of our caucus?” Rhodes and Michel looked at each other. “Mr. Vice President,” the ever-polite Michel said, “I don’t know yet. We’ve only had a chance to talk to a few folks besides our people on Judiciary, but if the committee is any indication, it’s not good for the President.” Rhodes joined in. “John, I don’t think it’s really set in yet for people, but those transcripts are going to be read all weekend long and printed in newspapers and it’s going to be pretty damn obvious the President stepped over some lines if not outright broke the law. We’re both lawyers here, we know holding off on the transcripts and tapes when they contained material evidence would be enough to get a contempt citation and a jail stint, but that’s not even the worst of it. If this bit about Jaworski is true, then it’s the ballgame. You can’t preach law and order while you’re shredding it, bit by taped bit. Even if he disagreed with the subpoena, even if he thought it had no force of law, he had to know what he did was wrong. That’s the problem. I think we’ll be lucky to hold two-thirds of the caucus, honestly.” Rhodes had ended up going beyond the agreed-upon caution, mainly because he became angrier the more he talked about it. He’d put his reputation on the line for Richard Nixon, and Nixon had repaid the favor by acting like some capo di tutti in the Oval Office, disrespecting the law and the Constitution. The Minority Leader thought that if he were forced to vote next week, he’d probably vote to impeach himself, but he’d keep that part to himself.

That was all that Connally really needed to hear. He thanked the men for coming, and said he’d follow up with them after he talked with the President. After showing them the door, he continued making his phone calls, reaching out to the far right (Guy Vander Jagt of Michigan, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Barry Goldwater Jr. of Califonia, and Bill Archer of Texas) and the moderate middle (Silvio Conte of Massachusetts, Barber Conable of New York and William Steiger of Wisconsin). The consensus was looking dire for Richard Nixon. Goldwater and Conable both said they would vote to impeach based on what they heard that afternoon, Cochran and Archer were solidly behind the President, and the rest were unsure—with the caveat that if Jaworski testified under oath to Presidential destruction of evidence, they were gone. By the end of the night, Connally was certain it was simply a matter of when, not if, he’d be President. He poured a tumbler full of Wild Turkey, lit up a cigar, and smiled as he leaned back in his chair. Nellie came in and sat down in the chair next to him, and he turned to kiss his wife. “Honey,” he said, “I wouldn’t spend too much time decorating here. I think we’re going to be moving again pretty soon.”
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John Connally and King Hussein of Jordan were surely two of the only truly well-dressed men in the Seventies. And probably Cy Vance. Tasteful, sometimes downright artful, ties, never wore flared or too-tight pants, never let the hair or the sideburns get really out of whack, well-fitted suits without lapels as wide as a lateen sail, no flared trousers. And though he did not do it often Big Bad John could wear the hell out of a hat, as here. Reminds me of my grandfather, another man who for his faults always dressed better than the decade, and was a fedora man too.
John Connally and King Hussein of Jordan were surely two of the only truly well-dressed men in the Seventies. And probably Cy Vance. Tasteful, sometimes downright artful, ties, never wore flared or too-tight pants, never let the hair or the sideburns get really out of whack, well-fitted suits without lapels as wide as a lateen sail, no flared trousers. And though he did not do it often Big Bad John could wear the hell out of a hat, as here. Reminds me of my grandfather, another man who for his faults always dressed better than the decade, and was a fedora man too.
Don't give my man Eliot short shrift here. Dude looks downright dapper here.

Don't give my man Eliot short shrift here. Dude looks downright dapper here.

Yes! I'm ashamed I forgot him. Last of the Brahmins. You know there's no long-form biography of him? Not just good ones (there's a short, cheerleading one, more like a novella as bios go) but any. That needs to be fixed.
April 6, 1974 -- A very special bonus chapter
Nixon was the kind of guy that if you fell overboard and were 20 feet from shore, he would throw you a 15-foot line and Kissinger would tell you that Nixon had met you halfway.

Whenever I am having a rough day, I go back and listen to Nixon ask Haldeman, “So, Cavett…how can we screw him?” It’s always a pleasure knowing the leader of the free world wants to find some way to screw you.

--Dick Cavett

Viewers of ABC this Saturday night tuned in expecting the usual Suspense Movie of the Week and instead got….something else. Playing off of the stunning news of the day before, Dick Cavett convinced the network to let him do a live show from The Improv in New York City. With very little notice, the club sold out in less than an hour as the word spread around the city, and was packed with an appreciative audience as they went live at 9 p.m. Cavett opened the show by asking, "What, you were expecting Columbo?” He told the audience it was a special night, because they were present for the first, and only, Saturday Night Impeachment Party! The crowd cheered, and then Cavett introduced his guests, Mort Sahl, John Dean, and Jimmy Breslin, which drew even louder cheers. Sahl had resurrected his career by riffing off of Watergate across the country on a tour, bouncing between old stories about JFK and making cracks like, “Our nation was founded by such great men as Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. The last election, we had a choice between Richard Nixon and George McGovern. This can only mean one thing—DARWIN WAS WRONG!” While the four men discussed the wild turn of the Watergate saga and what was likely to happen, another drama was brewing on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard.

dick cavett title card.jpg

The title card shown during the commercials of the Dick Cavett Show’s special episode.

Private First Class Robert K. Preston, all of twenty, with the piss and vinegar attitude that the age carries with it, was an unhappy soul, had been for months. After growing up dreaming of flying helicopters in the Army, Preston got his chance and went to flying school at Fort Rucker in Alabama—only to wash out after over a year. There was some debate as to whether he had failed to certify or the Army was just cutting back after the Vietnam War was closing out and there was less need for helicopter pilots in the service. Regardless, Preston was a PFC, stuck, unhappy, and assigned to Tipton Airfield at Fort Meade, Maryland as a mechanic. For a man who’d wanted nothing but to fly, and was good enough to have gotten a private pilot license (an event that would back Preston’s later testimony that he had passed his tests but was failed out so they didn’t have to make him a warrant officer when older men with experience were competing viciously for flying slots), this was embarrassing, a humiliation after all the bragging he’d done to friends and family. To add insult to injury, his girlfriend had left him, saying that he was too miserable to be around. PFC Preston was sad, angry, and alone—a combination that never does any good, and on this Saturday night, things would get a little crazy. Robert Preston was going to steal a helicopter and prove he could fly as well as anyone in the Army. Tell me I failed, will you? I’ll show you I’m the best goddamn pilot you had and let go because of the buddy system!

As a mechanic, Preston could go right on the tarmac, in the hangars, anywhere that a mechanic was needed. As twilight settled in, Preston made a show of inspecting the Hueys sitting out at Tipton, until he found one that was flight-ready in all respects. The flight controller could be forgiven for not having noticed, as Saturday nights weren’t exactly action-filled around Fort Meade, and there was no security because Preston was authorized, and that was that. It was a shock, then, when the controller realized a Huey was taking off without saying a word, buzzing right past the tower. He sounded the alarm for the guard force, but they weren’t pilots and there weren’t any on base, so he did the next best thing he could do—he called the Maryland State Police and told them someone had hijacked a Huey and was headed God knows where. Preston had quickly gotten the hang of the controls and decided to buzz around at low-level, keeping out of radar coverage, and headed over the Mall, where a Metropolitan Police helicopter saw him and began to give chase. The PFC took off towards the Washington Monument, hanging a hard left as he passed it, like a race car driver, and shot back out west over the Mall, then pulling up hard and letting the MPD chopper fly past, leaving pedestrians below with mouths agape. The chopper then headed towards the Capitol, performing figure-eight loops around the dome, daring the MPD helicopter and a Maryland one that had caught up to stop him. This was the point where things started to go a bit wrong for Robert Preston. The Maryland chopper had a sniper on it, and he snapped off a shot at the windshield, missing the young man by inches, but causing him to drop down out of surprise and barely pulling back up before someone on the ground got clipped by the rear rotor.

Back in New York, Cavett was notified of the chase by the show director, and informed the audience that, “apparently, someone has stolen an Army helicopter, and is flying around Washington. I’d like to inform that person that they were mistaken, the impeachment party is not in D.C., so if they could kindly put the helicopter down, I’ll call the police and give them my number so I can be your one phone call from jail.” Sahl chimed in, “Listen, buddy, Nixon’s not home right now! Land on the South Lawn! Take a walk around the fountain, it’s beautiful!” Although there was no way Preston could hear Sahl, he took the advice anyways, gunning the engine and headed up Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House, where a very alert Secret Service was waiting, and they were armed with Uzi submachine guns, lighting up the Huey with a ton of rounds as it came in over the South Lawn. They put a lot of holes in the light airframe, but didn’t down it at the height it was at. All three networks had now gone live with the drama, and as they tried in the night sky to locate the Huey (which did not have most of its lights on), there was a streak of light and the Huey and Preston were forced down to Earth, the rear rotor and tail being blown off by a Redeye surface-to-air missile launched from the roof of the White House, and for a second, a nation held its breath, but Preston kept his cool, having trained for this, having wanted to come under fire and be the hero, and he successfully landed the helicopter and walked out with his hands up and a big grin on his face. Told you I was the best. Cavett, watching on his monitor with the other three, cracked, “That’s the best shot the White House has fired in two years.” Dean added, “Well, when you hire Liddy, Hunt and Colson to handle your security, what else do you expect?” The crowd roared, Sahl and Cavett belly-laughed, and the Saturday Night Impeachment Party would go down in history as an inspiration for an NBC show that would debut the following year: Saturday Night Live.