The Shame of Being Left Off Nixon’s Enemies List

No revelation to come out of the Watergate hearings so far has had such damaging results as the publication of the White House "enemies" list. But what is a man's life worth if he isn't even on it?


“How come you’re not on the list?”

No revelation to come out of the Watergate hearings so far has had such damaging results as the publication of the White House “enemies” list. It strikes to the very heart of democracy and has left literally hundreds of individuals and organizations paralyzed with fear and shame. What is a man’s life worth if he isn’t an enemy of the White House?

The day the list was published literally hundreds of newsmen and commentators were struck speechless with fear for their very jobs. How do Eric Sevareid or David Brinkley explain the fact that their names were not on the list when Chet Huntley, who’s busy trying to coax us on an American Airlines flight, had a whole memo devoted to him? Everyone knows that the tv commentators’ game is a tough one. One stop out of line and they pull your plug. How long can Brinkley and Sevareid survive with a stain like this on their reputations?

For the columnists the stakes are even higher. What newspaper is going to shell out hard cash for a columnist whose opinions are so tame that even the White House doesn’t consider him dangerous? Poor Nick Von Hoffman. Darling of the New Left, intimate of numerous Democrats, defender of the Chicago Seven, how does he face his readers, knowing that Nixon, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Dean all considered Max Lerner a greater threat to their empire? And Jimmy Breslin. For years he and Pete Hamill have fought tooth and nail to see which one could say the most outrageous things about the Nixon regime. How can Breslin even manage to drag his poor broken body out of bed in the morning now that Hamill has administered the tour de force?

And the spreading stain goes well beyond media people. Shirley MacLaine, for instance, spent nearly all of 1972 trying to defeat Richard Nixon. How does she face her former friends in the McGovern camp knowing that Gregory Peck gave Nixon more sleepless nights? Poor Joan Baez’s singing career is also in ruins. What dewy-eyed teenager will ever again listen to Joan’s wobbling laments for peace, love, and brotherhood after learning Joe Namath struck greater fear in the corridors of the establishment?

Nor are the big name individuals the only ones affected. Think of all the organizations pledged to disrupt the established order whose names were not included. How can Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers claim they are the true representatives of the migrant workers when they’re not even an enemy of the White House? How can we believe the Vietnam Veterans Against the War’s claim that they are the target of a government plot when we now know that the boys in the White House were really out to firebomb the Brookings Institute? Will Lenny Bernstein be reduced to holding cocktail parties for Common Cause now that the truth is out? And what about the Berrigan Brothers? All that time spent trying to kidnap Kissinger and not even a mention on the enemies list? And what does that mean for Kissinger?

But for the cruelest blow the list administered is the friendships it no doubt will destroy. For after all, if one’s name does not appear on the White House enemies list, it can only be assumed those missing are friends of the President. Can Sid Davidoff and Dick Aurelio continue as partners in Jimmy’s given their obvious political differences? How can the Hayden-Fonda marriage survive when Jane is on the list but Tommy isn’t? Will Paul Newman overlook the fact that his wife, Joanne Woodward, is practically a welcome guest at the White House?

Surely there must be some redress for the untold pain and anguish the publication of the enemies list has caused. Careers ruined, marriages destroyed, organizations bankrupt, reputations besmirched — it’s worse than the blackest days of the McCarthy era. Where is the Civil Liberties Union to defend our right to be on the list? What has happened to due process? How can people defend themselves against a secret band of anonymous men who would brand them friends of the White House?

The only rational solution is that the list must be open and that people be allowed to plead their case for inclusion as an enemy of Nixon. It is incumbent upon the President to immediately name an impartial investigator to review the entire list and hear arguments from those who have so unfairly been left off. The investigator must also be empowered to add any additional names he sees fit to the list of White House enemies. The investigator should be someone not previously connected to the Nixon administration. He or she must also have a reputation for impeccable honesty and no friendships with people who might be considered eligible for the list. Since obviously no one in America fits that description, my personal suggestion is that the President nominate the Pope. After all, he’s already had experience in deciding who should or should not become saints.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 25, 2019