From the May 6, 1973, issue of The Living Church
By Carroll Simcox
PERHAPS no one who has never been President of the United States himself is qualified to think out loud about the moral problems confronting the holder of that mightiest office in the world. At the risk of presumption, however, we must say what lies heavily on our mind: It is time for Mr. Nixon to speak out fully — “loud and clear”— about Watergate and tell us where he stands. What he has said about it thus far is not enough.
It may be that all the hugger-muggery went on without the President’s having the slightest inkling of it. Poor Warren G. Harding was personally innocent of the financial scandal that will uglify his administration in history forever. But he could at least have told the world that he condoned no malfeasance by his subordinates, and acted accordingly. An executive is responsible, even when not personally culpable, for what his subordinates do; and if they have betrayed his trust he is obligated to denounce and repudiate them if he wants to keep his own good name good.
Many millions among Mr. Nixon’s “silent majority” have supported him because they agree with his strong stand on law and order. But they can only be baffled and disheartened by his prolonged silence.
Some of his underlings have already been convicted of crimes that are especially odious to the law-and-order mind. His open denunciation and repudiation of these misdeeds would be tremendously reassuring to all Americans who share his professed moral principles and who right now could use a good stiff shot of reassurance.
If this nation is to avoid a general slide into a nihilistic moral cynicism there must come a strong, clear, convincing lead, by example as by precept, by the nation’s leaders, and above all by the President. If this lead is not given, if Watergate becomes for Mr. Nixon what Teapot Dome was for Harding, he will leave behind him a bad name, a bitter memory, and an evil legacy in American life. He doesn’t want that, and we still believe he doesn’t deserve it. But we are shaken as the truth about Watergate is brought bit by damning bit to light.
Speak to us, Mr. President, in our confusion and growing dismay!
The Rev. Carroll Simcox was editor of TLC from 1964 to 1977.