April 21, 2012

Chuck Colson, Nixon Strategist, Dead At 80

Michael Dobbs, writing for The Washington Post:

“Charles W. Colson, the Republican political operative who boasted he would ‘walk over my own grandmother’ to ensure the reelection of President Richard M. Nixon and went on to found a worldwide prison fellowship ministry after his conversion to evangelical Christianity, died April 21 Inova Fairfax Hospital. He was 80.”

(Via Darcy Spencer.)

Colson was one of president Richard Nixon’s “big three,” along with H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman. He was a close political advisor to the president.

He’s the guy who allegedly possessed a framed picture in his White House office stating, “when you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” He was also the guy who tasked Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt with breaking into Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, looking for defamatory material. (Ellsberg had leaked the “Pentagon Papers” to the press, revealing the US military’s secret history of the Vietnam War.) He was intimately involved in the Watergate scandal, the granddaddy of modern political theater.

It was a different time when Colson was in the public eye. The crimes with which he was connected tarnished American’s view of their government, beginning a slide in public sentiment that gained momentum with Ronald Reagan’s often-misquoted “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” (Reagan was referring to the economic crisis extant at his first inauguration, not government at large.)

Colson went on to found Prison Fellowship, an organization simultaneously founded in multiple countries to serve the spiritual needs of imprisoned people. He was recognized many times over for his later-life contributions, but his notoriety came from Watergate.

Most of the Watergate players are deceased. Liddy is still kicking, though pre-deceased by his wife of 53 years, Frances. They were all true believers, convinced that the social activism of the 1960s was a threat to the American republic, and active against that movement, to the degree of actual crimes against that republic.

Patriotism wears many colors.